Mass Effect Retrospective 6: Noveria

By Shamus
on Aug 5, 2015
Filed under:
Mass Effect

Like Feros, Noveria is a two-location planet, with a Mako drive between them. Port Hanshan has the corporate offices, while the labs are up the snowy, hilariously steep mountain path. The people of Hanshan evidently know how reckless and sketchy their research work is, since they put all of their labs and experiments on the other side of a glacier.

Port Hanshan

What a fun bunch. Think I`ll take my next leave here.

What a fun bunch. Think I`ll take my next leave here.

Well it wouldn’t be a proper RPG if we didn’t run into a plot-driven door at some point.

This is a simple quest that feels long because of the elevators we have to ride. Administrator Anoleis is a corrupt jerkfaceWouldn’t this quest be more interesting if he was a nice and funny guy, and was only an asshole to the people he had power over? You’d need a different reason to oppose him, but “Guy who is cool to the player but a tyrant to everyone else” might be a fun hook. who won’t grant you a pass to access the garage, which you need in order to reach the Mako and drive up the mountain to Saren’s lab. You go from Administrator Anoleis, to Agent Parasini, to Lorik, where each of them tells you their particular agenda. Then you have a little scuffle at Lorik’s office, and you decide which of the previous three people you want to work with in exchange for a pass. If it wasn’t for all the walking and elevator-riding the whole thing would be over in less than five minutes. But that’s not a very good reason to have all the walking and elevator riding.

And yes, it makes no blazing sense in the universe that the Mako is already in the unreachable garage. I forgot to get a screenshot, but I’m pretty sure you can even see it on the map if you visit the garage entrance before you’re granted access. While I praise this game as a “Details First” story, this seems like a pretty big detail to overlook. Is the Mako in the garage supposed to be from the Normandy? If so, then how did it get there? If not, then is this just a… public Mako? Like, is this bouncy tank turret and machine gun just up for grabs for anyone who comes through. A courtesy tank?

You can get through this section with only SEVEN elevator rides, but only if you know what you`re doing so you don`t make needless trips. 1 ride to enter Hanshan. 2 rides to enter and leave the lounge to meet Lorik. 2 rides to enter and leave Lorik`s offices. 2 more to enter and leave the lounge again.

You can get through this section with only SEVEN elevator rides, but only if you know what you`re doing so you don`t make needless trips. 1 ride to enter Hanshan. 2 rides to enter and leave the lounge to meet Lorik. 2 rides to enter and leave Lorik`s offices. 2 more to enter and leave the lounge again.

I think I needed just one line of dialog in there somewhere acknowledging this. If Joker called and said, “Oh, by the way commander, so-and-so at the dock says we have access to the garage so I told them to transfer the Mako out there for you. Figured you didn’t want to walk. But, you know. It’s up to you. You’re welcome.” Even if it wasn’t clear how the Mako was transferred from one side of the building to the other, it would at least smooth out this seemingly impossible situation. It would seem like an abstraction of “we didn’t want to depict the Mako moving around in a cutscene” instead of “we forgot that tanks aren’t naturally occurring”.

The other problem with the area is the need for excessive backtracking. We can forgiveOr at least, *I* can, you big meanie. the annoying loading-screen elevators as an unfortunate limitation of the engine, but did the designers really need to have us crossing this empty space and running around all these baffle walls so many timesI assume the baffle walls are there to cut down on how much the game needs to draw, but even if you removed them these places would have a fraction of the detail we see in the Citadel. The Citadel had a larger area, a more complex backdrop, a more open design, and more NPCs. I can’t imagine why would would need baffle walls here and not there.?

Peak 15

According to Mass Effect, in the future you`ll be able to synthesize a cure for anything, with no medical training or ingredients. But then you`ll have to shoot like 50 dudes to get it to the people who need it.

According to Mass Effect, in the future you`ll be able to synthesize a cure for anything, with no medical training or ingredients. But then you`ll have to shoot like 50 dudes to get it to the people who need it.

Given the Trek-like tone of the rest of this universe, I find the heavy-handed “evil corporations” angle to be kind of odd. Not bad, mind you. Just unexpected. It feels almost cyberpunk. On Feros, ExoGeni perpetrated a horrific crime by deliberately placing colonists over the Thorian to see what it would do to them. Here on Noveria, the companies are all trying to spy on each other. Anoleis is basically a crime boss, the port security are all a bunch of bribed thugs, and it’s clear half the science here was crazy irresponsible weapons and biotech research before Saren showed up with his Rachni queen.

The Trek stuff is positive and hopeful and sees technological progress as a positive thing emerging from cooperation and creativity. Cyberpunk often views technology as sinister, risky, cutthroat, and the the resulting technologies often only serve to highlight our depravities. The game shows us all these wonderful technologies that don’t seem to have any glaring downsides. They don’t pollute, or create danger, or run on resources acquired from slave labor, or anything else we associate with stories about “bad” technology. But then we see where the technology comes from and it’s this circus of lawless plotting, theft, espionage, and carelessness. This mix of optimism and nihilism is jarring and I wonder how much of it was deliberate and how much was just the result of mixing together disparate tropes.

I’m not saying the “evil corporations” angle is wrong, per se. It’s just an odd combination. It makes me curious how other technology research works in this universe. Is this how everyone does it? Or is this a reflection on the relative hostility of the terminus systems? Or is this problem unique to private research, to be contrasted with the public-sector success of the Alliance / Turian collaboration in developing the Normandy? Or perhaps a commentary on how humans are kind of screwups compared to everyone else?

Or maybe I’m over-thinking this and the evil corporations thing is just there to justify a world where Shepard needs to go around shooting stuff instead of calling the cops.

I love the idea that everyone - including Benezia, Saren, and the scientists - has to ride up to Peak 15 in a bouncy tank.

I love the idea that everyone - including Benezia, Saren, and the scientists - has to ride up to Peak 15 in a bouncy tank.

At one point it’s revealed that basically everyone knows there’s some kind of containment-breach type emergency going on at Peak 15, and nobody has any plans to do anything about it. It’s apparently standing procedure that if Peak 15 doesn’t signal the all-clear, NDC will just vaporize the installation with a missile. Nobody cares, nobody has any empathy for each other, and nobody finds this chaos all that noteworthy. At any rate, it really says something that in the next game, when Cerberus shows up they make these clowns look like a bunch of humanitarian geniuses.

Anyway.

I really appreciated the time the game spent justifying Saren’s resources. We learn here that Saren has a share in some of these companies, which explains why he has this massive facility all to himself up on Peak 15. Elsewhere you have a conversation with Wrex that reveals that Saren has been hiring mercs to pirate supplies for him. His turn to evil was not recent, and he’s spent a long time – possibly decades – building up the facilities he’s using. The writers could have waved their magic wands and just said, “He’s the bad guy, so of course he has mooks!” but they took the time to hint at where his resources were coming from.

What I wouldn`t give for an AWESOME BUTTON right now.

What I wouldn`t give for an AWESOME BUTTON right now.

The game also makes it clear that Noveria is outside of Citadel space, which explains why nobody came and took all his toys away when he was stripped of his Spectre status.

I really have to wonder about the environment design here. The entire complex is a maze of elevators and long box hallways, with just four or five meaningful rooms between them. A few of the hallways are justified as arenas for combat, but the vast majority of them are just empty space. The Citadel made it clear that this engine is capable of doing large-ish areas, so I have no idea why Peak 15 is broken into all of these minuscule zones.

The elevators hurt the most. They’re long and boring. There’s no character chatter. No flavor dialog. You can’t even fidget by moving around. You’re locked in place with nothing to do until the ride stops. The elevators also turn the map into an unreadable mess by dividing the labs into a bunch of different little zones. This is irritating enough when you know where you’re going, but for a newbie it’s complete torture to wander around, trying to make sense of how these spaces connect.

Matriarch Benezia

When 900 years old you reach, look as sexy you will not.

When 900 years old you reach, look as sexy you will not.

It’s always great to see Marina Sirtis working. The Trek franchise is a strange place for actors to wind up. It can keep you gainfully employed for decades, but at the same time it leads to an odd sort of stagnation. Usually fame is a stepping stone to greater success, but with Trek you wind up with these people who are both instantly recognizable, yet somehow unemployable outside of Trek. For example, there’s no good reason in the world that Robert Picardo didn’t get a career boost from Voyager the way Brian Cranston got a boost from Breaking Bad, other than the fact that Trek forms this strange, insular acting ghetto that few performers can escapeAlthough when Patrick Stewart escaped it, he REALLY escaped it.. His portrayal of the Holodoc was brilliant, and since then I don’t think he’s been given anything worthy of his talentsI looked up some Stargate episodes he was in. He did fine, but it didn’t look like the role gave him anything fun or challenging to do..

I really like Sirtis. Everyone remembers Counselor Deanna Troi as a joke who would use her powers as a space-psychic to tell us that she could sense “hostility” in the aliens currently torpedoing the Enterprise. But like Kate Mulgrew years later, I think Sirtis was given disastrously bad dialog and did her best to make it work.

This performance as Benezia is actually really tough to pull off. You have to introduce this character, establish her allegiance, do a quick heel-face turn, deliver some exposition, and then have a melodramatic death scene. Oh, and you have to do with with just your voice, because your body will be animated (not mocapped) by someone else, and your in-game face will barely emote. That’s asking for a lot from a voice performer in a very short time, and the fact that this doesn’t dissolve into an accidental comedy is a miracle. The fact that Sirtis can actually make this work and inject some pathos into a videogame boss fight is a testament to her talent.

Vader Built C3P0

I always thought that bringing Liara to fight her mother to the death was a dick move. But I do it anyway because it makes for more interesting dialog.

I always thought that bringing Liara to fight her mother to the death was a dick move. But I do it anyway because it makes for more interesting dialog.

The decision to have Matriarch Benezia be Liara’s mother is a little uncharacteristic of the tone of Mass Effect. It just so happens that Saren is looking for Prothean ruins, and his right hand is an Asari Matriarch, but one of the best Prothean researchers in the galaxy just happens to be the Matriarch’s daughter? That’s quite a coincidence, and it makes the galaxy feel a little small. The dialog sometimes makes it sound like you recruit Liara because of her mother, but of course the far better reason to get her is that she knows Prothean ruins. This is a very Drama First setup.

It’s a contrivance, but it’s a mild contrivance that is economical in terms of screen time and it heightens the emotional payload of one of the most pivotal scenes in the story. I only point this out to show that yes, I recognize Mass Effect 1 isn’t some flawless unassailable classic. Nor is it a structure of pure logic. It has little lapses and minor dramatic cheats in the margins. (Or in this case, brazenly in the middle of the story.) It’s not perfect, but it cheats a little in the service of doing something really difficult (big-idea space opera) while the later games cheat a lot to accomplish something easy (spectacle-focused action schlock) and pointing out the flaws of Mass Effect 1 doesn’t get Mass Effect 2 off the hook. As always, story collapse is less of a binary thing and more a matter of degrees.

It’s not like it’s a plot hole. It certainly doesn’t break the story. If Saren was the uncle of Garrus and it turned out that KirraheHe of “Hold the Line!” fame. was good buddies with Shepard’s mom, then I think things might unravel. There’s room to fudge things for the sake of drama as long as you don’t push it.

At any rate, this setup does give Benezia a better buildupAssuming you actually GET Liara before heading to Noveria.. Without Liara explaining her Mother’s wise and gentle nature, Benezia would probably be reduced to a boring mind-controlled bad guy. Liara’s viewpoint allows us to see her downfall as tragic and shows that even noble, intelligent, strong-willed people can be indoctrinated.

We’ll talk more about the other events on Noveria in the next entry.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Wouldn’t this quest be more interesting if he was a nice and funny guy, and was only an asshole to the people he had power over? You’d need a different reason to oppose him, but “Guy who is cool to the player but a tyrant to everyone else” might be a fun hook.

[2] Or at least, *I* can, you big meanie.

[3] I assume the baffle walls are there to cut down on how much the game needs to draw, but even if you removed them these places would have a fraction of the detail we see in the Citadel. The Citadel had a larger area, a more complex backdrop, a more open design, and more NPCs. I can’t imagine why would would need baffle walls here and not there.

[4] Although when Patrick Stewart escaped it, he REALLY escaped it.

[5] I looked up some Stargate episodes he was in. He did fine, but it didn’t look like the role gave him anything fun or challenging to do.

[6] He of “Hold the Line!” fame.

[7] Assuming you actually GET Liara before heading to Noveria.



A Hundred!A Hundred!16216 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. lucky7 says:

    Huh. I honestly never saw the disconnect between the cyberpunky areas and the Trekky areas, but I remember switching to Renegade while I was in those parts.

  2. Viktor says:

    The evil corporations didn’t bother me at all. It’s basically modern-day companies taken a step further. And not even a big step. Like, I don’t even see Shamus’ objection here, it seems perfectly normal.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I reckon the idea is that it’s odd from the point of view of someone living in an otherwise Trekkyish tantamount-to-utopia galaxy, rather than being odd from our point of view. Like if Warhammer 40k-type space marines showed up in an episode of The Jetsons.

      It’s nowhere near as extreme as that here, of course: just two different flavours of standard future-stuff, which you don’t normally see in combo – and I think Cmdr Shepmus was more noting that than really objecting to it.

      • Zaxares says:

        Well, yes and no. Both sides are in the right here.

        Within Citadel space, yes, technology is light and happy and the common citizen has access to communications, medicine and transportation that practically remove all of life’s worries. The Citadel outright bans technology and practices that are immoral or unethical.

        But outside of Citadel space, it’s a different story. Here, the corporations conduct research on illegal AI, unethical avenues of medical research, banned weapons technology (think people working on chemical or biological weapons in real life) etc. And it’s not like there isn’t a market for it; pirates and other criminals in the Terminus Systems gladly make use of this technology, and even Citadel races might covertly use the results of said research (such as the salarians), while publicly denying any involvement.

        Basically, things are only fun and happy while you’re in Citadel space, and then, only if you don’t look too closely.

        • Bubble181 says:

          Eh. it’s a hold-over from KOTOR, in my mind, andSW *is* a world where you’ve got near-perfect tech within Republic/Empire boundaries going hand in hand with crappy dirty tech outside those and amongst the poorer. It may look a bit strange out in the wild, but it’s the exact same dichotomy.

          Besides, compare tech used in Europe and the US with what’s being used in South-East Asia and most of Africa: insecticides we known to be cancerogenic, medication we know has horrible side effects, far more polluting factories, etc etc – all for the production of stuff for “us”, in ways “we” don’t approve of but turn a blind eye to in favor of profits. And/or dumping of our products from yesteryear.

      • Tom says:

        “Like if Warhammer 40k-type space marines showed up in an episode of The Jetsons.”

        Somebody, please, make this show happen.

    • Mike S. says:

      I’m personally tired of EvilCorp as a trope. Sure, there have been companies as evil as you can imagine just as there have been governments. But the presumption that any corporation will immediately redline the evil meter is just as lazy as assuming that any government will go straight to [Godwin] without passing Go. It’s something that I want to see groundwork laid for, not assumed.

      That Saren, who starts out above the law and not terribly concerned about collateral damage and moves on to “brainwashed by Cthulhu” is doing unconscionable experiments is fine, as is taking advantage of the isolation Noveria offers. That the Citadel is winking at a corporate haven that occasionally nukes uncontrolled bioweapon experiments just because it’s technically outside its borders is, at least, a somewhat harder sell. Try doing nuclear or bioweapon experiments on a platform on the high seas (without shelter from another great power), and see how long the US says “welp, they’re outside our jurisdiction, nothing we can do!”

      (There are multiple specific provisions that place a murder in space under US jurisdiction if it’s barely halfway justified.)

      • ehlijen says:

        I thought Noveria was under at least some protection by the Asari? Or am I confusing that with Illum?

        Keep in mind that in the ME universe, the galactic executive power would be comprised mostly of the by-the-book Turians and the seemingly very hands-off Asari and anyone acting without their approval will face those two fleets. A treaty could absolutely stop them dead in their tracks.

        This criminal negligence is a tough sell, I agree on that, but Citadel Council is clearly shown to be more like the US and GB before WW2 than after, as in they are passive, self absorbed and not taking a growing threat as serious as they should.

        If there are corporations evil and rich enough to do nonsense like this, I have no doubt they are moving enough money to keep the council off their backs as well.

        The bigger questions is: If the rest of the Galaxy was already doing this by the time humanity left the sol system, how come Cerberus upstaged everyone at criminal insanity so well and so easily? We know it’s not because of competence…

        • Alexander The 1st says:

          “The bigger questions is: If the rest of the Galaxy was already doing this by the time humanity left the sol system, how come Cerberus upstaged everyone at criminal insanity so well and so easily? We know it’s not because of competence…”

          It’s because none of these corporations are Asari/Turian/Krogan/Salarian/Human-First corporations, but Cerberus is.

          And humans are special, Cerberus being Human-First means they can easily leapfrog everyone else, clearly. :p

        • Ringwraith says:

          That’s Illium, although even that’s outsides the bounds of Citadel space.

      • Bropocalypse says:

        I don’t think the notion of one or two corporations being corrupt is necessarily a message about all corporations being corrupt. After all, if a story surrounded a company that went about its daily business without corruption or espionage or unethical practices, I’d question why we should care what’s going on at all.

      • Taellosse says:

        I’ll point out that several countries HAVE developed nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons under the nose of the US and UN, with varying degrees of interference, over the last half-century. Most recently, North Korea, and the current administration is in the midst of trying REALLY hard to stop Iran from doing the same without starting another war in the Middle East. US power is a long, long way from being as absolute as it likes to pretend, outside it’s own borders, and that’s when faced with opposition that is clearly vastly inferior to it militarily. When opposed by a hostile nation that even begins to approach equal footing, it is often reduced to little more than threats and hand-wringing (see American foreign policy RE: Russia – and in earlier decades the USSR – and China).

        And it is that latter comparison that is far more apt when comparing Earthly governments with the Terminus systems (where Noveria is located) – they’re not a single, unified government like China or Russia are, but they’re a group of autonomous regions that are likely to unify against overtly hostile acts from the Citadel, and collectively they can nearly rival the Citadel races – at minimum they can cause very serious damage in any sort of open war. As such, the Citadel has extremely limited options when it comes to intervening in that region, which is precisely WHY Noveria and other planets like it exist there. That the corporations operating Noveria even concede to recognizing the authority of Spectres is actually a pretty significant concession – one made for plot reasons rather than much logic, I suspect.

        • INH5 says:

          A slight correction: Noveria isn’t in the Terminus Systems. It’s in the Attican Traverse, which borders on the Terminus Systems. In the first game, the only time you enter the Terminus Systems is when you go to Illos.

          • Taellosse says:

            Fair enough, but regardless, it is outside Citadel space, and not under the Council’s jurisdiction, even if all the corporations that run Noveria have their primary operations within Citadel-controlled territory (which is nominally why they make the concession of permitting Spectres some measure of jurisdiction).

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Likewise, as someone clearly opposite Viktor it didn’t bother me because writers, actors, designers, and so forth like to portray pointlessly cacklingly evil corporations so much that its background noise to me. They way overblow it and so lose any potential credibility to be influential.

      Occasionally there is a corporation evil enough to really be concerned about but these clowns cry wolf so often, they lose the ability to warn us.

      Here at least I can hand wave it. I’m playing a Spectre, they’re not generally going to send me to deal with doubtless millions of good pleasant corporations doing safe stuff. Likewise, I’m tracking a rogue Spectre trying to secretly build resources without getting caught, so once again I’m going to be spending my time with the couple of bad apples that spoil the bunch.

      Also, cartoonishly evil capitalists have not just a place in Trek but an entire species. Its telling that they couldn’t even respect the Ferengi they created enough to make them the credible threat they were supposed to be because they couldn’t resist the urge to also portray them as ridiculous clowns. Their politics torpedoed their writing.

    • Not to mention it’s not out of line with Star Trek at all. The idea isn’t so much “corporations are teh EVIL,” it’s that “away from the happy-moral-ethical Federation, science is allowed to run without restrictions.” It’s the Cerberus “rogue cell” at play, only it’s “rogue science.”

      It’s like how the Federation bans eugenics of the kind that gave us Khan. The more inexplicable (apparent) bans are using transporters to cure disease, aging, death, etc. even though they’ve clearly demonstrated the ability to do all those things and more.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Also, use of robots for manual labor (Voyager has copies of the holographic doctor repurposed as miners, so I guess they still need manual labor).

        • That really made no sense to me. Not the use of holographic miners, since it was them actually using this force-fields-to-do-stuff tech they’ve had on holodecks since forever. It was making the holograms look like someone and have some sort of personality that could hate (or simulate hate for) what they were doing. I know they were going for another sort-of-Data “race” as well as a poke in the eye to make Zimmerman hate the Doctor even more, but it was pretty silly.

          And the show still doesn’t explain why they don’t have holo-doctors as the primary physician on starships, since the Doctor notes his precision exceeds that of humans already. I’d see a human doctor almost like a pilot, giving directives to holo-docs or making moral decisions the computer wasn’t equipped to make.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ-ggzfdsMs&ab_channel=apala734

            Not to mention, a big part of the reason the Doc became self aware was because he was left on constantly. They should have rebooted the Doc-miners periodically.

            Or just, you know, had the holoprojector whip of a chipper bunch of dwarves that enjoy mining (I guess like you said.)

            Though Deep Space Nine did address your point about use of Doctor. (Leave it to DS9 to make sense out of Star Trek). Dr Zimmerman came to Deep Space Nine to make a long term medical hologram based on Dr Bashir’s personality and memories. This included not just his bedside manner (like him or not its a step up from the Mk I) but also his life story so that he would seem more authentic.

            • I have to think Starfleet would have had some words with Dr. Zimmerman before that.

              “So you based the first, failed version on yourself. Then you took it upon yourself to make the second model based on one Andy Dick…”

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                Say what you will about Andy Dick, the episode with him opposite Robert Picardo was a definite step up from the shows overall average acting quality. I thought he did well as the MkII.

                • I have to say the thing I hated most about that episode was the ship. “Wait, something becomes more effective at combat by breaking apart?” It irks me the same way anime mechs do where somehow a machine (let’s say a space fighter) is less effective at combat as designed, but if you also add a crapload of servo motors, weaken the frame so it can change shape, and assume a humanoid profile, it suddenly becomes unbeatable.

                  I mean, “the rule of cool” and all, but the Prometheus was ridiculous, especially given how long it took to get its act together. The Romulan ship was pretty much “Oh, they’ve made it fly apart. I guess I’ll just wait here for them to shoot me a bunch.” Feh.

          • Syal says:

            Can the holo-doctor leave the medical bay?

            • Eventually. Thanks to getting some future-tech from the 29th century (don’t ask, it was Voyager), the Doctor could wander anywhere. I do wonder how difficult it would be to put holo emitters in parts of the ship where injuries were the most likely (engineering, near any control panel on the bridge, etc.), and we have seen holograms in other parts of Federation Starships before, so…

              It’s ironic how Star Trek invented Vulcans yet often has the hardest time enduring the application of logic to its plots. :)

              • Syal says:

                The other question would be, what happens when the power goes out? Those are the two hurdles I see to having a program do all the doctoring.

                Well, that, and holo technology malfunctioning and trying to kill people.

                EDIT: Though DS9 has shown us real people have a tendency to become possessed or replaced and try to kill people, so maybe that last one is a wash.

                • guy says:

                  He’s not really supposed to be doing all the doctoring; he’s the Emergency Medical Hologram, and is supposed to act as a short-term backup. Voyager lost all their trained medical personnel when they got flung across the galaxy.

  3. Christopher says:

    I wonder if the decision to have Benezia be Liara’s mother was made pretty late. I don’t recall it coming up again. If Liara blamed her lover for shooting her mother to death, that scene has disappeared from my mind. I don’t even remember her mother’s death being particularly sad, to be honest.

    The boss fight itself is sort of a blur, too. Judging from what I can remember of the others, it probably went by too fast to notice. At one point Saren was defeated in three seconds from giving him one revolver salvo with that marksman ability.

    • Zekiel says:

      The Benezia boss fight is more memorable to me since the Asari commandos had some sort of Force Push ability that caused Sheperd to get stuck in a wall. I could still fight, and win the battle, but I couldn’t escape afterwards. This happened twice or three times, and I only managed to win the fight by lucking out and killing the commandos before they targeted Sheperd with that particular ability. So I got to see the cutscene conversation a few times… /grumble

    • Alex says:

      “The boss fight itself is sort of a blur, too. Judging from what I can remember of the others, it probably went by too fast to notice. At one point Saren was defeated in three seconds from giving him one revolver salvo with that marksman ability.”

      Mine took longer but was no less unfair. I had a “troubleshooter” – a Solokov shotgun with two scram rails and explosive shells which instantly overheated the moment I pulled the trigger, but took less time to cool down than it took the victim to stand back up. Rather than an epic battle between equals, the fight consisted of Shepard standing over Saren, waiting for him to get to his feet before blowing him across the room.

      • Christopher says:

        It’s sad when games that have as much combat in a non-real setting as Mass Effect do don’t have any good bosses. The very final boss of this game is just a beefed-up version of that normal frog-like Geth. I’m not sure which Saren version you meant(I was talking about the one on Virmire, on his Green Goblin-flyer), but in my game both encounters were over within moments with my adept and it doesn’t seem like it was any different for your build. I know lots of people disliked the giant Terminator in 2, but he and the Shadow Broker were the closest they ever came to being fun, I thought. This stuff doesn’t seem to matter very much to their fanbase(at least I never recall hearing “The bosses are bad” being a complaint), but it’s one of the things I dislike the most about Bioware’s games, as a guy who loves a good boss.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Yeah, the Shadow Broker was a very uncharactisically well-designed fight, weird forced teleporting to the entrance of the room nonwithstanding.
          In fact, that whole DLC put out some good un’s, the other boss fight against a Spectre vanguard was pretty fun, especially the dialogue exchange prior and all the results from that (like starting the fight with no ammo).

        • I’d kind of assume that most people who really like Bioware games have realized by now that your best expectation is along the lines of “the combat wasn’t so bad that I had to go online and look up cheats to turn on god mode 2/3 of the way through to finish the dang thing”. Decent boss fights? Puh-leeeeze.

          That, of course, is assuming that you don’t find an ability/gear combo 1/2 of the way through the game that kinda turns on god mode by default.

          • Christopher says:

            To try and reply to both of you, I thought the Vanguard fight was pretty fun, too. I was a Vanguard myself, so whenever she charged away(seemingly she didn’t understand that a charge was supposed to target a person) I charged right after, following her around the battlefield.

            And yeah, that’s probably the case. Wishing for good combat in Bioware games is sort of like expecting Platinum’s games to have subtle, deep writing. You just have to hope that they focus their efforts on their strengths, not their weaknesses, because they will never be able to overcome them. Honestly, I would have been excited if the new Mass Effect game had turned out to be some kind of visual novel. The studio making Andromeda are the multiplayer guys as far as I’m aware, so maybe I might actually get some better combat in exchange for some of that writing.

    • Zombie says:

      I wouldn’t be shocked if, somewhere along the line, someone was just like “Hey, we have an Asari companion, and this kinda boring Asari antagonist/boss. What if we did something to connect the two?”

      That actually would kinda explain why they would let you just completely ignore Liara until you had actually had to get her (aside from not railroading the player): They hadn’t actually planned to make them family, and didn’t feel like changing all that much about the flow of the game.

  4. guy says:

    At one point it’s revealed that basically everyone knows there’s some kind of containment-breach type emergency going on at Peak 15, and nobody has any plans to do anything about it. It’s apparently standing procedure that if Peak 15 doesn’t signal the all-clear, NDC will just vaporize the installation with a missile.

    I found that perfectly acceptable. It’s made pretty clear that the reason Peak 15 and apparently a number of other installations are positioned way out on the ice fields is so that if their biological weapons research goes horribly awry, as such things do, there will be no concerns about collateral damage when they reestablish containment via orbital bombardment. They could attempt to send in a rescue team, but then they risk the specimens overwhelming the rescue team or escaping into the wilderness. And if that wasn’t a serious concern it would be sited more conveniently and not have a dedicated orbital bombardment satellite.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I’ve got friends at Emory who crack openly about the giant firebomb under the CDC to sterilize like a quarter of Atlanta in the event of a loss of containment of some thing -and they run evacuation drills to get off the campus and out of the blast radius.

      I think they are exaggerating, but nonetheless, that’s a system in a city, today. I found Peak 15 perfectly reasonable.

      • Mike S. says:

        I’d like to see a cite for that system existing. On the face of things, I’m somewhat skeptical that Congress would sign off on installing a blockbuster bomb in a major city before, say, moving the complex out of Atlanta.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Apparently they don’t. But that's just what they want you to believe.

          As I said, I'm sure my friends exaggerate. We used to tell people in the Capitol Building that the whistles everyone wears are to activate the air-defense grid in the case of another terrorist attack by jetliner. The actual reason is so that in the event of a terrorist attack destroying the building, the survivors can make noises to attract rescuers in the rubble. So I'm familiar with the gig.

          Regardless, people in Atlanta find it reasonable enough to make gallows humor jokes about it -so seeing it in a space fantasy didn't really shock me.

        • All I’ve got is hearsay evidence from a doc (who worked at the CDC) whose kids I used to babysit & take to school. I remember him telling me about the sirens and that the explosion would certainly be visible from the school.
          The old CDC building (now apartments) is in the middle of midtown/downtown Atlanta, so they might have thought moving it to Emory would be less devastating?
          I’ve just always put it down to the same logic fail that seems to run our DOT (seriously, GA DOT is amazingly idiotic most of the time).

          We also tell jokes about the number of people who’re going to show up about 20 miles north of the actual CDC because they think the Walking Dead actually showed the right building. On the plus side, they’ll be near water, but I’m not so sure anyone really wants to drink from the Chattahooche.

  5. Otters34 says:

    Never thought about that, the bit about public sector science and private sector science being presented so differently. The galactic civilizations adapt anti-Reaper ordinance in record time and collaborate on superb new ship designs, Cerberus fails at sci-fi’s equivalent of high-school experiments. In hindsight, it’s probably just because you’re a gubmint agent (for all that matters…) dealing with private misconduct and threats to public health and safety.

    It’s kind of funny to think of that, and how virulently anti-politico the entire series is, to the point where just being a politician is enough to make you suspicious. Though that’s a pretty Canadian mindset from what I’ve heard.

    Also, wouldn’t it have been neat if Noveria was a primarily volus world, given their being central to galactic commerce and deal-making? Maybe give Li a fussy volus higher-up who is being driven slowly mad by Li’s unturian broness.

  6. Liam O'Hagan says:

    Marnia? Surely you jest…

  7. Tobias says:

    Speaking of Mulgrew and Sirtis: I was really, really happy to see Mulgrew on Netflix’ Orange is the New Black. Not only because it’s great to see her in a high-profile role again, but also because this show’s creators really gave her a chance to shine with a really interesting and layered character. And boy, does she shine on Orange…

    • mechaninja says:

      I watched Voyager as long as I did based purely on liking her for being in Remo Williams, The Adventure Begins (still waiting on that sequel, guys!).

  8. Spammy says:

    I was actually kind of annoyed by Benezia’s looks as I felt like Bioware was typecasting Marina Sirtis. She spent years on TNG in awkward looking jumpsuits with plunging necklines, and I think I read somewhere that she got the part of Troi because she could fill them out. That last bit is only recollection and may be wrong, I don’t have a source right now. But then she gets a part voicing a character in Mass Effect and… it’s a lady in a dress with a plunging neckline and she’s literally introduced cleavage first.

    I don’t know, maybe Sirtis had a laugh about it when she saw the concept art of Benezia and doesn’t really mind. But it bothered me because it seems like more of Bioware being lazy. Like with the Asari race in general.

    • Zekiel says:

      Benezia’s design irritated me for that reason. I seem to recall the Spoiler Warning episode had the guys making fun of the game introducing this sinister and portenous character via cleavage.

      • Wide and Nerdy says:

        Seeing as how large breasted women in Hollywood either need breast reduction surgery to get serious roles or get stuck playing bimbos their whole career, I’m decidedly not bothered by Benezia, a woman with large breasts who is a serious, intelligent and credible threat.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Furthermore, I’ve always thought a tall woman with that kind of build and a deeper voice like what Marnia was using can come off as powerful and imposing, not just fanservicey. Especially so for Benezia who has the psychic powers to back it up.

        • Otters34 says:

          Intelligent? Her whole deal is doing what Saren tells her and she gets killed doing that the first time she’s in a room with the protagonist. Her boss fight is mostly just shooting the people and robots she brought along, without even any interesting traps or switch-ups besides ‘oh look more mooks’.

          • Mike S. says:

            I don’t know– I think bringing an army of geth in suitcases as machine equipment was actually pretty clever.

            She set up a defense in depth: first isolating the place and ensuring that Port Hanshan wouldn’t let through anyone it could stop unless someone could bribe, suborn, or displace Anoleis; then making sure that no one could make it to Peak 15 without being shot. Follow that up with the ERCS guards to misdirect anyone who’d made it that far if they could, or shoot if they had to. And then her personal guard were legendary asari commandos plus killbots, plus her own Stasis power. That really seems like a solid plan to prevent interference by anyone who’s not an unstoppable protagonist.

            And in the final combat, she was trying to fight off her Indoctrination. That’s probably a fair partial explanation for why she lost, and she managed it enough to accomplish some of what she set out to do. She’d hoped her counsel would stop Saren, and she failed due to their both being Indoctrinated. But the information she got from him, and passed to Shepard, was critical in finally bringing Saren down.

            (Breeding rachni was Cerberus-level stupid, but that seems to have been Saren’s idea rather than hers, and by then she wasn’t in control of her actions.)

            That’s a bit of the story I would have liked to see expanded a bit. We’re told that Benezia started out benevolent, but we never see her or her people that way, or get much idea of her matriarchal accomplishments prior to joining Saren. The tragedy would have been sharper with more of a visible sense of who she was before her ranting villain phase.

          • Scourge says:

            I think she tells you, in her final throes of life, that she tried to control Saren. Tried to undermine him. Act his ally but then betray him… but then she was indoctrinated.

          • She failed her WILL save, not her INT check. There’s a difference.

            • Otters34 says:

              If by Will you mean Wisdom, then I entirely agree. It was explicitly a failure of judgement rather than mere ignorance that led to her getting mind-controlled by the space-demon.

              But even aside from that, demonstrating intelligence in the game is stuff like Saren getting the krogan on his side by pretending to be working on a cure for the turian/salarian genophage while really just making them indebted and enslaved. By the standards of this bringing Elite Mooks to a boss-fight is paltry stuff. It’d be like claiming Cmdr. Shepard is some tactical genius because they brought two specialists instead of coming alone.

              • Mike S. says:

                Is it really a failure of judgment to not anticipate that Saren’s dreadnought has mind-control powers? That seems like something of a left-field problem to be expected to foresee.

                • Otters34 says:

                  Not so much on the mind control as failing to grasp Saren’s Reaper-augmented force of personality and inability to listen to reason. Given how skilled asari are shown when dealing with people, it’s a pardonable but significant lapse in judgement to keep hanging around somebody who inspires such strange, slavish loyalty in others.

                  • MrGuy says:

                    Meh. We have had humans with no appreciable known magic powers who have, by the cult of their own personalities, have convinced others to commit mass murder, commit genocide, seize children, and even blow themselves up.

                    I don’t think “this guy has some really loyal followers!” should make most people jump to “mind control powers” as the most likely explanation.

        • Zekiel says:

          I don’t mind that her character design has large breasts. I mind that the camera introduces her breast-first in her introduction. It feels ridiculous and undermines her as a serious antagonist and a credible threat.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      There were so many cool things they could do with asari,yet most of them get thrown away.Though the liara romance at least gets something interesting in the third game.

      • Mike S. says:

        I really liked some of the vignettes in ME2 showing some of the facets of asari cross-species relationships, and how the differences in lifespan affect it. And overall I think they worked far better than a mashup of Green^WBlue-skinned Space Babe and Space Elf had any right to.

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        I feel like there was a lot of weird stuff planned for the Asari that all got forgotten between games because of a changing of the guard in creative staff without them leaving their notes.

        I’ve been getting back into playing the games because of this series, and I just played through Samara’s loyalty mission. Morinth says a lot of weird things that seem like they might’ve been plot hooks.

  9. StashAugustine says:

    The thing I really liked about Mass Effect’s tone was that it had Trek’s exploratory optimism but the quasi-utopian aspects were replaced with a kind of cyberpunk-y cynicism. Yeah in the future, we’ll still be greedy racist dicks and the aliens might be genocidal Lovecraftian horrors, but it’s still really really cool to go jetting around unexplored space with a hot blue alien.

  10. Mike S. says:

    In my last replay of ME1 thus far, I finally realized that, of the options in the epic Quest for the Garage Pass on Noveria, ratting out Opold the hanar merchant is by far the most ethical.

    Let’s see:

    1) Help out Lorik Qui’in = take sides in a corporate conflict I have no knowledge of or interest in, and murder a dozen-odd cops while burglarizing an office building. (Yes, bent cops who are moonlighting without authorization and prone to the use of excessive force. And worse, don’t give proper respect to someone the Council’s elevated above mere law. Nevertheless.)

    (Optionally, this will get Qui’in to testify and help with Parasini’s… embezzlement investigation of Anoleis. Um, proportional much?)

    2) Narc on Parasini, thus getting both her and Anoleis killed.

    3) Give Qui’in’s evidence to Anoleis, thus taking sides in that corporate conflict again. (This is probably second-best. What do I know or care about Qui’in’s business practices relative to Anoleis’s?)

    4) Report to Anoleis that Opold’s smuggling weapons mods to a krogan criminal. Which won’t get him arrested or killed, just expelled from Noveria and blacklisted. Sure, he’s pretty huffy about it. But compared with all the murdery options?

    (And given your squad of three heavily armed people prone to the use of excessive force, how is there not a Renegade option to intimidate Lilihierax, or failing that, shooting him and taking his pass? If you can take down a platoon of ERCS guards, surely one mechanic isn’t an insurmountable challenge.)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Maybe in the HD remake we will get renegade interrupt for that.

      • McNutcase says:

        While I’d like a remake with better art assets (you can instantly tell the recycled ME1 assets in ME2, they’re the things with pixels a foot across in the textures and a polygon budget of “maybe 3”) I suspect they’d remove the remarkably useful grenades (command detonation is incredibly overpowered) and impose the ridiculous, poorly-justified, badly-handled ammunition mechanics from the later games.

        But I ranted about the ammo mechanics on my own blog, I shouldn’t spam Shamus’s comments with the way they could have handled it so much better…

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Mass effect isnt really trek like,which is shown early by all the politics between the races.Hence why I dont find all these companies that jarring.

    All the mercs from 2 on the other hand….

    • Taellosse says:

      Agreed – Citadel space is only Trek-like on the most cursory, surface level. It’s much messier with an even slightly closer look.

      Actually, I find it a more believable setting than Star Trek (at least under Roddenberry) – the utopian nature of the Federation was always a little hard for me to swallow.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The mako in the garage isnt really a public thing.Its more like the companys apc.That garage is filled with mako parts after all.And seeing how corrupt this whole place is,them having military vehicles isnt that far fetched.

    • James says:

      But that Mako the M35 Mako is designed and used solely but the Systems Alliance.

      if Bioware had just had Joker or Pressly say, we dropped the Mako off in the garage whilst your own the way to the garage after getting the pass, then id be cool you have a frigate and a crew its easy to assume your crew does SOMETHING while your being space James Bond

      • Richard H says:

        I always found it really strange that you’ve got this Mako, and you basically never see another one. Instead, everyone else seems to have a completely different 6-wheeled vehicle which doesn’t even look like a Mako with the turret dismounted. I eventually found a Codex entry for it, but, for the most part, I just assumed it was the same vehicle.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I seem to remember there are 2 Makos in the garage. And possibly other similar looking vehicles in Peak 15. I just assumed a human operated research colony would be outfitted with human military equipment. The Traverse and the Terminus aren’t modern day United States. They’re the wild west. Civilians used the same Sharps and Henry rifles as the cavalry did, and for the same reasons.

        Same here. Everyone uses the ERCS and SA equipment.

        • James says:

          Maby but you wouldn’t expect to see a M1Abrams in use by a private research corp for defense would you

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            If said private corp had practically free reign on the whole planet?Yes,I would expect them to have a bunch of main battle tanks and jets for “protection”.

            • James says:

              thinking back on it, your probably right but the Private Corp tanks would be both branded and better quality then military, which is why they have normal tank rovers and we get a bouncy castle on wheels

  13. ehlijen says:

    I suspect the jarring juxtaposition between trexploration and cyberpunk was intended as a sort of new world vs old world theme?

    You’ve got the frontier, the edge of civilisation where no one has time for backstabbing and most colonies are comprised of the adventurers who couldn’t wait to get out there. But you’ve also got the culturally somewhat inbred old worlds where ancient power structures slowly grind against each other even as progress threatens to overwhelm them. And then you get the mix where the first group is fed to thresher maws by the loonies of the second…

    For example, at character creation you decide if Shepard was earth, space or colony born. Presumably someone meant for that to have an impact (even though it got kicked out eventually in favour of earth being the centre of the galaxy :( ).

  14. boz says:

    Both Noveria and Therum were written by Chris L’etoile. That should explain the oddness. As his tone is different than the general direction of the series (Star Trek expy).

  15. Karthik says:

    “This mix of optimism and nihilism is jarring and I wonder how much of it was deliberate and how much was just the result of mixing together disparate tropes.”

    OMG I have wanted to talk about this for so long! There actually is a direct reason for this, and it involves the contrasting perspectives of Chris L’etoile and Drew Karpyshyn, two of the writers responsible for Mass Effect’s worldbuilding in its pre-production phase. In a blog post or interview of L’etoile, who wrote a big chunk of ME1’s codex, he mentioned that the two writers were completely at odds in their prediction of the social, political and economic state of the earth in ~2170.

    Unfortunately it wasn’t hosted on a popular site, and I can’t find it in my bookmarks right now. While I try to find it, here’s what I remember:

    Karpyshyn envisaged the Star Trek future, of a united earth with a single benevolent government, giant strides in technology, no poverty and a zeitgeist of optimism and hope. L’etoile thought the world would be more fragmented and iniquitous, not less, with smaller but more hegemonic governments and larger, more monolithic and powerful corporations. Which is, I suppose, the Snow Crash-like cyberpunk future. This divide in opinion extended to what the rest of the galaxy should be like when the humans entered the stage too.*

    Ultimately, they decided that it would have elements of both, with the Systems Alliance standing in for the Federation as the united face of humanity(with the individual earth governments left intact but ineffectual), and the corporations chasing profits with no regulation or oversight relegated to distant planets outside Citadel Space.

    Interestingly, both L’etoile and Karpyshyn left the series somewhere during the development of Mass Effect 2, and that game hewed closer to L’etoile’s vision, with Shepard spending most of his time in the criminal under-galaxy.

    (*There is a small chance I’ve got the two mixed up, in which case the point still stands, but with the names exchanged.)

    • INH5 says:

      Here’s an archive of the article.

      You’re right that this seems to be yet another example of the writing staff having clashing interests for what the story was going to be like without anyone from above stepping in to resolve these disagreements. I think the fact that Chris and Drew disagreed about a significant aspect of the setting and the conflict was only resolved when they agreed to just not mention this is very telling. If you look at successful examples of collaborative writing as in, for example, most TV shows, it’s clear that a necessary element is a solid creative head who can, for example, step in and say either “we’re going with Drew’s idea” or “we’re going with Chris’s idea.” From what I’ve read about the writing process during the ME games, it sounds like they mostly just let the writers run off and do whatever they want in their own corners of the game, then had the other writers go over their work later and try to make everything fit together. It’s really no wonder that the story of the games frequently ends up as a mess as a result.

      Similarly, L’Etoile has been rather adamant in forum posts that the Geth shouldn’t have emotions, but if you look up interviews with ME2’s audio and character designers you’ll find that they designed Legion’s voice and character design with a number of features for the sole purpose of expressing emotions. In particular the flaps and lights on Legion’s head are there so he can have “facial expressions” and the vocal effects were carefully set up to make Legion’s voice sound like a Geth while still preserving the nuances of DC Douglas’s voice performance. The fact that the people working to create the same character can end up with such different ideas about what they want to create is not a good sign.

      • Mike S. says:

        When it works out, it can result in a world that’s more interestingly complex than one person’s vision. (After all, endemic corruption and idealistic institution-building coexist in the real world. Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais fought on the same side.)

        In particular, I like the geth’s unshakeable conviction that they act according to reason and consensus, when their entire history is full of what are obviously emotional reflections of their creators: from the existential question that began the Morning War (“does this unit have a soul?”) to the temptation to idealize the Reapers to the fact that out of a hundred billion stars in the Milky Way (including any number that no organic being has the slightest interest in), their Dyson Sphere had to be at Jerusalem^WRannoch.

        • boz says:

          If I remember correctly “Does this unit have a soul” comes from ME3 with it’s super original “I want to be real boy” arc.

          • INH5 says:

            No, Legion tells the story of a Geth unit asking a Quarian “does this unit have a soul?” during one of his ME2 conversations.

            • Scourge says:

              “Of course you do Legion.”
              “Does Commander Shepard only says so, to assure herself cause she is a ginger?”
              *Renegade Interrupt*

            • Alexander The 1st says:

              IIRC, it actually also comes up when Tali talks about the Geth in ME1 – it was at the point where they realized they had to shut down the Geth, because if they didn’t, then the Geth would find their uses in dangerous or monotonous work unacceptable.

              It actually works out well with the Geth’s conflict over whether or not they are all logic and reason versus their emotional recordings – the Quarians (Or rather, a large majority of Quarians) specifically did *not* want them to develop emotions, which is why they started the war and tried to wipe them out in the first place.

        • SlothfulCobra says:

          There is a really nifty effect that you get from all these weird conflicting accounts within the universe, where your brain can fill in all the gaps with your own imagination, and a slew of unreliable narrators feels a lot like the real world, where everybody is still having trouble figuring things out.

          And of course, the Quarian were practically asking for the Geth to develop religious ideas. They built a huge collection of VIs based on their ancestors in order to facilitate their ancestor worship. It was only a matter of time before there was some cross contamination.

          • Mike S. says:

            When I was reminded of the ancestor VIs after ME3, I saw them as a missed opportunity. The geth should have been revealed to have had them as part of their caretaker role on Rannoch, possibly incorporating them into the consensus, and provoked the quarians to argue about whether this constituted a shared veneration of their honored dead or an obscenely perverted vandalism.

      • Ringwraith says:

        The Legion example still sort of works as Legion mentions being a specifically-built platform designed to operate, and if necessary, interact with, other races outside their normal space. They do spend a lot of time listening…

  16. Karthik says:

    “The Citadel made it clear that this engine is capable of doing large-ish areas, so I have no idea why Peak 15 is broken into all of these minuscule zones.”

    Not really. Early in development, apparently the Citadel map would crash the game (on their X360 kit) if the camera turned around too fast, and it was a real pain to get it to load. So they made later areas much smaller. The Citadel rendered in single digit framerates for a long time before release. (The source is an ME2 preview/interview from 2009.)

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      There’s also the possibility that the snowstorms outside Noveria’s windows caused problems when rendered from both sides, so they used walls to hide the fact that they only spawned the snowstorm on one side of the building, for example.

      They *can* handle large areas presumably after all the work to increase the framerate, but they probably couldn’t handle it with the particles running at the same time.

  17. Karthik says:

    “It just so happens that Saren is looking for Prothean ruins, and his right hand is an Asari Matriarch, but one of the best Prothean researchers in the galaxy just happens to be the Matriarch’s daughter?”

    The small galaxy trope works best when it’s played for laughs, like with Conrad Verner, but Mass Effect uses it so often I can’t enjoy it anymore.

    In playing Mass Effect 3, I found out yesterday that Matriarch Aethyta, the bartender on Ilium from ME2, is Liara’s father, a detail I somehow missed last time around.

    So you meet two matriarchs across all three games (unless the Asari councillor is one), and they’re both Liara’s parents? You know the head shake animation characters in Mass Effect do when they hear something outrageous? I just did that.

    My recollection from the Mass Effect 3 spoiler warning was that this game went all the way towards drama in Shamus’ drama-vs-details spectrum. But in playing ME3 again, I was surprised that there still is a lot of detail, like a few lines of dialog handwaving why no one found any plans of the crucible in any Prothean ruin until now, and even a line comparing the whole enterprise to playing with a loaded gun we don’t know how to use.

    And then this happened, and the game lost whatever ground it had gained in my mind.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Wait,liara is a pure born asari?When the heck was that established?

      Also,technically samara is a matriarch,judging by her age alone.However,her role of justicar is what overrides that.

      • Raygereio says:

        Wait,liara is a pure born asari?When the heck was that established?

        Liara isn’t a pure asari. She’s one quarter Krogan.

        Anyway, it’s first brought up in ME1 when you ask Liara if she knew her not-father. Liara suspects that it’s another Asari and that Benezia raised her alone and never talked about who her not-father was due to the whole social stigma against purebloods.
        I guess in ME3 Bioware decided to just go with that.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          She is pure blood in all the ways that count and says as much in the first game. Pureblood always means that your parents are both asari, not that all or even most of your ancestors are.

          Asari children are always asari. They don’t really take genetic traits from the “father”, they use a reading of the “father’s” genetic code to randomize certain sequences of their child’s code but those sequences still fall within the range of what can be considered asari. They also take some kind of mental imprint of the parent during this process so the child’s personality is the place where the non asari parent has the greatest impact (hence, Liara’s “father” has a salty Krogan influenced personality.)

          This reminds me, the Ardat Yakshi was something I liked about ME2. Its something Bioware often does where they take a real world issue like racism or sexism where the baggage we have is over something superficial, and put those same issues in a context where people have an actual valid reason to have the ignorant attitude. Its helps them to be able to have characters that have politically incorrect attitudes yet still be portrayed with some degree of sympathy. It also helps make the point “even if there is a potential issue, thats no reason to not treat people like people.” See also the Mages in Dragon Age.

        • SharpeRifle says:

          They mighta intended it since ME2 where you first meet her. Its circumstantial but when you go with that super drink she makes and get all woozy she turns into a younger looking asari who looks suspiciously like Liara.

          • Mike S. says:

            They certainly intended it by the time they released the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, which has a file photo of her staring at a picture of Liara. I think there were also bits of her original dialog that teased it. (Not enough to establish it, but that make me think that it was intended from the beginning rather than being a Darth Vader is Luke’s father! retcon.)

    • MrGuy says:

      ..no one found any plans of the crucible in any Prothean ruin until now, and even a line comparing the whole enterprise to playing with a loaded gun we don’t know how to use.

      “Playing with a loaded gun we don’t know how to use” is a truly excellent way to describe the writing staff of ME3.

      • INH5 says:

        My preferred analogy would be “up a creek without a paddle.” Looking back on ME3, it’s clear that the root cause for most of its non-ending, non-Kai Leng, and non-some-kid-died story problems is that the story premise (a galactic war against giant robot spaceships) and the gameplay premise (a third person shooter with light RPG elements and dialogue trees) are totally incompatible. This forced the writers to constantly come up with excuses for why landing somewhere and shooting a bunch of dudes and/or talking to people is going to help defeat the Reapers, resulting in the search for the secrets of the Crucible, galactic superpower Cerberus, etc.

        • Mike S. says:

          Which, to be fair, is the same problem as the first game. Exactly the same, ultimately, since in both cases it turns out that it all depends on access to a specific location on the Citadel that is finally determined neither by the massive fleet action outside nor the vast numbers of personnel on-site, but by Commander Shepard beaming in and confronting the final boss personally.

          (If anything, it’s more of a strain in ME1, where we have to figure that somehow defeating the Saren-husk throws off Sovereign enough to make the difference in the fleet battle. At least activating the Crucible is plausibly expected to have wide-ranging effects.)

          Since I like large-scope space opera, and I basically like the ME gameplay style, I’m willing to cut it a fair amount of slack. I had the same problems with the ME3 ending everyone else did, but I came in assuming that somehow, no matter what, the fate of the galaxy would depend on something that could only be accomplished by a squad of three soldiers on foot.

          (As it happened, I was off by two soldiers.)

          • I didn’t get the impression in ME1 that anybody KNEW smacking Saren would fry Sovereign–it was more a Hail Mary pass that happened to work out, because saying “bah, Sovereign can take on the entire human fleet, let’s just hang out here and let Saren bring the rest of the Reapers through with no resistance” is ridiculous. Even if you think you’re cornered, you fight. It might work. Not fighting DEFINITELY won’t.

          • INH5 says:

            You’re right, but ME3 does make a number of things worse with its premise. Most notably, it takes the first game’s problem of “Saren is working to bring about the apocalypse, the quest to stop him is literally called Race Against Time, and yet I can spend as much time as I want driving around on random planets in the Mako?” and makes it ten times worse by having the Reapers not just about to invade, but already in the galaxy and killing millions every day without making any changes to the gameplay or mission structure.

            There’s also the fact that not only is the game not able to make gameplay sequences out of space battles, it also can’t handle large scale Call of Duty style ground battles very well. In multiplayer, no more than 8 enemies (not including “pets” like Swarmers and Geth attack drones) are ever on the field at any given time. The single player clearly can’t handle a large number of AI companions either. In the entire game, any time that you do have more allies than your two squadmates they are either kept isolated from your battle space on an nearby balcony or ledge (as in Grissom Academy and parts of the Omega and Citadel DLCs) or they die as soon as you move up to them (as in Thessia or the Tuchanka missions with the Primarch’s son).

            The engine doesn’t even seem to be good at rendering large battle scenes. If you look through Mass Effect 3’s .bik files, you’ll find that every even remotely large scale battle cutscene, from the kid getting killed in the tutorial to most of the cutscenes in Priority: Earth to the shot of about 20 Cerberus mooks running out at the end of the Cerberus Scientists mission with Jacob, was pre-rendered.

            EDIT: Admittedly, the first game had some of this problem too. Eden Prime or the final level on the Citadel never gave me a feeling that I was in the middle of some kind of huge invasion.

            • SlothfulCobra says:

              It’s so annoying to me that there was never any ship-to-ship combat, and not just because I love me some starship combat, and all the superficial resemblance to Star Control. There’s a lot of talk about how the Normandy is such a triumph of engineering, how Joker is such an amazing pilot, and how the Normandy’s unique systems would revolutionize warfare. There are codex entries that detail the particulars about how spaceships fight, and the different size classes and specializations. There is even an entry that goes into the details about the Normandy’s specs, and how it would fight, if it ever got into a space battle. Add to this the fact that the central enemies of the whole game are just giant sentient spaceships, and it’s pretty clear where all this is going, right?

              But no, all of that just comes to…nothing. All problems must be mashed into the shape of a fight with some dudes with guns so that they can be solved by a 3-man squadron.

    • INH5 says:

      So you meet two matriarchs across all three games (unless the Asari councillor is one), and they’re both Liara’s parents? You know the head shake animation characters in Mass Effect do when they hear something outrageous? I just did that.

      Samara is also an Asari Matriarch, and as far as I know she isn’t related to anyone in the cast besides Morinth and her other daughters in the AY monastery.

      My recollection from the Mass Effect 3 spoiler warning was that this game went all the way towards drama in Shamus’ drama-vs-details spectrum. But in playing ME3 again, I was surprised that there still is a lot of detail, like a few lines of dialog handwaving why no one found any plans of the crucible in any Prothean ruin until now, and even a line comparing the whole enterprise to playing with a loaded gun we don’t know how to use.

      It’s clear that at least one person on the ME3 writing staff was doing everything he/she could to try to make sense of the whole mess. See, for example, the Codex’s Reaper War entries, which make a good effort to try to reconcile the game’s presentation of the Reaper invasion with what the first game’s Codex established about space combat. They don’t always work, but I think whoever wrote them did a better job than I could have. A lot of the story bits presented in the Codex and various side bits of the game are more compelling than most of the actual in-game story.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Samara is also an Asari Matriarch, and as far as I know she isn’t related to anyone in the cast besides Morinth and her other daughters in the AY monastery.

        Matriarchs are not just about their age,but their involvement in the community as well.So while samara is of right age to be one,her paladinhood moves her away from matriarchdom.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        The codex, in some ways, makes it worse. During the Reaper War, the codex makes very clear that space battles are basically suicidal -the reapers are basically invulnerable in space due to their speed and the power of their mass effect cores.

        But because of their size, they are vulnerable on planets.

        The gameplay is about fighting on planets.

        How hard is it to contrive a reason for the galaxy to lure the reapers into a gravity well and kill them with some piece of technobabble? They could have even revived the (stupid, but still present in the earlier game) dark energy thing to do it.

        • INH5 says:

          I agree. The least they could have done was let the player indirectly fight and kill Harbinger at the end, preferably while Shepard shouts “this hurts you!” and “I know you feel this, Harbinger!”

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          They do.You use a cain to kill a reaper.Meaning we should equip all the ships with cains and call it a day.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Matriarchs are supposed to be more advisor and such, Aethyta mentions that’d be what’s expected of her, helping out on one of the more core worlds or such, instead of running a bar.
      Their lack of presence is written in a bit like how female salarians are, as there’s 1:10 gender ratio so they tend to stay back from the fringes and only really crop up in diplomatic capacities to the general galactic audience when they rarely do show.

  18. Nelly says:

    It would be ace if Anoleis would do something like react to your spectre status and try and obviously just give you what you want to get off his corrupt little world – and then have the investigator ask for help. That way, you can get through the plot gate without any effort (and Anoleis seems more believable to me – a thought process of ‘aw, hells, a spectre! One of the people that could, if they interfere, screw everything up? Get em what they want and get gone’ seems real) while also having the corporate corruption plot for those that are interested

  19. RCN says:

    Picardo did great on Stargate. I really liked the approach they did of “bureaucrat with a heart of gold”. When he is first introduced it is to bring up all the actual, honest to goodness security screw-ups of the SG-1 team, but quickly learns that they did the best they could in their situation and later, when assigned to Atlantis, he learns that command is more difficult than simply giving orders, as giving Major Sheppard (the one from Atlantis, not Mass Effect) orders without having his respect was effectively the same as screaming to the wind. Basically, he is this by-the-book guy who constantly gets annoyed by the less-than-ideal situation of real administration duties, but tries to reconcile both the best he can.

    Anyway, Benezia and Liara never really bothered me because for me it always felt that Liara being Benezia’s daughter was the reason for her knowledge of Prothean artifacts, unless I missed something.

    As for the cut-throat methods, it didn’t seem that out-of-place for me either. For me it was basically the game’s explanation of how the humans were able to grow so much so fast in the galaxy. It is because we played dirty and were willing to go beyond most squeamish Volus would to make sure Humans are ahead, and by virtue of aggressive industry espionage, sketchy research ethics and an unhealthy dose of off-the-books practices, we got so notorious in the Galactic community that we even got this sweet military deal with the Turians, THE go-to-guys for military stuff. And is also the precise reason our research industry was so alluring for Saren.

    This neatly explained how Humans were in the position they were in the first game (even if only for it to then be neatly thrown out the window in the sequels to be replaced with “because Humans are just a super-duper special snowflake in the galaxy. Just like Bella Swan”). It was also a great set-up for the sequel for humanity to then suffer a back-lash for all this exploitative tactics, where only the Salarians would continue to be willing to deal with us… but then they went for “The Galaxy is in imminent danger and ONLY HUMANITY is a bad enough sapient species to RESCUE THE GALAXY’S DAUGHTER! I mean, FACE THE COLLECTORS!”

    As for the way you keep bringing how well integrated the Citadel is… it makes me think how much of a pain-in-the-ass it must have been to be able to make all these open spaces in the citadel without straining last-gen’s consoles specs. They must have put as much effort and budget into the citadel alone as they did into all 3 of these quest locations.

    Also, am I the only one who felt that the 3 council races represented the Paragon-Renegade system (if you go by the idea that the system was a Idealist-Pragmatist duality?)

    The Asari are Idealist because they are long lived and have a great perspective on the consequences of one’s actions.

    The Salarians are Pragmatists because they KNOW they can’t “hold-the-line”, so they know they need to do whatever it takes to make up for their shortcomings and maximize their advantages (mainly, that big brain of theirs and their ability for lateral-thinking). Hence their “ALWAYS be the first to make a pre-emptive attack”.

    The Thurians try to reconcile both sides, taking Duty and honor very seriously but also knowing sometimes some dirty dealings are necessary and making an enemy unwilling to fight is sometimes more important than winning the fight.

    • Raygereio says:

      Benezia and Liara never really bothered me because for me it always felt that Liara being Benezia’s daughter was the reason for her knowledge of Prothean artifacts, unless I missed something.

      Liara was an archaeologist.
      Benezia had nothing to do with that. That is, if she had then it’s never stated in any of the games.

      • Attercap says:

        Liara does talk a little bit about her childhood and Benezia encouraging her archaeology in ME3. I think it’s after the ridiculous Cerebus invasion, once Liara is in the far north sector, leaning on a railing, looking down. It’s not much, but there is a bit of something. But there’s nothing mentioned about Benezia being interested in Protheans–just sounds like she was encouraging her daughter’s interests and aspirations.

        • RCN says:

          Sorry, my bad, I was misremembering. I was under the impression she was some sort of Rachni archeologist because of the context where you find her, but turns out I checked the wiki and she’s just a respected spiritual leader. I stand my ground about humanity’s industrial back-dealings, though.

          I only played through the game once. I should follow Shamus example and replay ME1. I really liked my experience with it, I have no true justification not to… well, except for my huge backlog of games I want to play.

    • INH5 says:

      This neatly explained how Humans were in the position they were in the first game (even if only for it to then be neatly thrown out the window in the sequels to be replaced with “because Humans are just a super-duper special snowflake in the galaxy. Just like Bella Swan”). It was also a great set-up for the sequel for humanity to then suffer a back-lash for all this exploitative tactics, where only the Salarians would continue to be willing to deal with us… but then they went for “The Galaxy is in imminent danger and ONLY HUMANITY is a bad enough sapient species to RESCUE THE GALAXY’S DAUGHTER! I mean, FACE THE COLLECTORS!”

      The first game ends with the human fleet flying in to save the galaxy when no one else can (for no particular reason), then one ending has the humans literally take over the galaxy through a frankly ridiculous set of circumstances. If anything, ME2 does a slightly better job of selling the idea of humans as the new and unpopular kid by having the rest of the galaxy not care about attacks on backwater human colonies. But ME3 really does pour on the “humans are the only ones who can save the galaxy” thing really thick, making what was implicit in ME1’s ending explicit throughout the entire game.

      • Zombie says:

        “The first game ends with the human fleet flying in to save the galaxy when no one else can (for no particular reason)”

        To be fair, the Council fleet gets its ass kicked by a surprise Reaper attack. The human fleet (which I will admit just kinda randomly shows up) is at least forewarned about it, and then can either save the fleeing council, getting its ass kicked in the process, or going in for the kill on the reaper, which leads to humanity being able to basically do whatever it wants, somehow.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Yeah, they were the closest and most aware of this sort of thing going down due to Anderson and Hackett being in contact with one another and Shepard. So they’re the first to arrive on the scene and suffer heavy losses as a result.
          Basically, it helps to have an admiral of an entire fleet on your side.

          • Pretty sure there’s at least one scene where Hackett and/or Anderson talk about moving the entire human fleet as close to the Citadel as possible in case they’re needed. Basically, the humans take the Reaper threat seriously almost as soon as Shepard leaves Eden Prime–their colony world got blown up, after all. So it makes perfect sense that the humans would be the only ones with a big enough force in place to make a serious run at Sovereign.

  20. Raygereio says:

    Noveria is a bit odd in that it has more non-linearity to it then the other areas of the game. Take acquiring the garage pass:
    You can talk to Opold – the Hanar merchant. He wants you to smuggle something. You can report him to Anoleis and you’ll get the pass as a reward.
    You’ll be directed to talk to Lorik Qui’in by Gianna Parasini. He wants you to pick up some evidence against Anoleis he has gathered. Once you’ve got it, you can give it to Qui’in for the garage pass. Or you can backstab Qui’in and give it to Anoleis for the pass. Or you can help Parasini and convince Quiín to testify against Anoleis and she’ll give you the pass.

    And take getting to Benezia at the Peak 15 facility:
    Captain Ventralis will direct you to the Hotlabs. You can go there and deal with the Rachni by setting of the neutron purge. Once you go back to Rift Station all the friendly NPCs will be gone, Ventralis will reveal that he works for Benezia and he and the guards start attacking. You’ll then fight your way to the Secure Lab where Benezia is.
    You can also immediatly hack the door leading to the Secure Labs, which will set of the alarms and turn all the guards hostile. You’ll then again fight your way to the Secure Lab.
    Alternatively, you can talk the doctor and help cure his patients. He’ll give you access to the maintanace area, which is an unguarded access to the Secure Lab.

    It may not seem like much. But it gives more freedom in how you want to approach things then the boxed-canyon-with-a-single-choice-at-the-end style design that most of the rest of the game (and the rest of the series for the matter) boils down to.

    • Mike S. says:

      I do like that Captain Ventralis can be an ally you never have the least problem with or an implacable enemy, dependent entirely on where you go after meeting him.

  21. Raygereio says:

    The Citadel made it clear that this engine is capable of doing large-ish areas, so I have no idea why Peak 15 is broken into all of these minuscule zones.

    That’s a bit like saying that since Usain Bolt can run at 44km/h, then so can you.
    The Citadel’s presidium area really stretched the engine to it’s limits. I recal a former ME1 dev saying that that area was a nightmare to get ready before launch. They even had an alternative presidium that was cut up several seperate areas ready, just in case they couldn’t get the big one working right.
    Even on modern hardware you can get a noticable performance drops, or or points where the game freezes to load new textures in that area.

    My biggest complaint with ME1’s story is it tries to move really fast and get the exposition out of the way, so the player can go shoot things.
    This results in weird bits where characters seem to pull info out of their nether region and treat it like established fact.
    But you can also get funny bits like when you pick up Liara:
    Liara: “The galaxy runs on a cycle. Civilizations rise up and are suddenly destroyed allowing new civilizations to rise up, which in turn get destroyed, etc”
    Shep: “Do you have any evidence for that?”
    Liara: “Well, no. It’s something I dreamed up while all alone on remote digsites. But I know I’m right! I just don’t know what does the destroying yet.”
    Shep: “I know! Sentient machines called Reapers.”
    Liara: “What? Do you have any evidence for such an extraordinary claim?”

  22. kdansky says:

    What really hurt Mass Effect 1 for me was that I was reading a book by Hamilton at the same time, and he is a really good space opera writer. If you put them side-by-side, Mass Effect 1 looks really bad in comparison.

  23. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I can’t wait till we get to ME2. I only played ME1 through once and missed a lot of the side missions and DLC but I’ve played the latter two games through multiple times each. I feel bad because I know its supposed to be the best game but I just hate the gameplay.

    If there was ever a game that needed Jennifer Hepler’s suggested “Story Only” mode, this would be it. Are there any mods that could help with that? Best I could come up with is god mode and, when you’re in the Mako sections, superspeed.

    • Raygereio says:

      I know its supposed to be the best game

      It’s really not.
      Generally when people talk about how it was the best game, I find they either do so while staring dreamingly through rose-coloured glasses. Or they like the idea of the game, more then the actual game itself.

      For example a lot of people really like the idea of exploring alien worlds and missed it in ME2 and ME3. Which ignores how utterly terrible what was supposed to pass as “exploration” was in ME1. The Mako had dreadful controls and it’s bounciness meant that often you had no control at all. And the actual planets were boring, monotonous places that had nothing interesting to find or to look at besides the skybox.
      Likewise a lot of people complained that ME2 and 3 had less “RPG elements” then ME1. Sure, ME1 had bigger talent trees. But that ignores how shitty designed they were. You put points in a talent and you got a bonus of a whopping +0,7% to duration.

      Yay? In ME2 and ME3 each talent point you spend had a noticable effect.
      And sure, ME1 technically had more guns to choose from. But all of them behaved and looked the exact same and there was never a reason to not use the highest tier ones (Spectre Master Gear). In ME2 the weapons looked and behaved noticably different. And once ME3 choosing your weapon loadout actually became somewhat of a tactical choice.

      Honestly the only thing I’d say ME1 was the best at was having the plot with the least amount of problems.

      • INH5 says:

        Honestly the only thing I’d say ME1 was the best at was having the plot with the least amount of problems.

        And that really doesn’t say much. I’ll go into more detail when Shamus gets to it, but the climactic Normandy lockdown -> Illos -> Citadel sequence is full of blatant cheats, plot holes, and generally sloppy writing that makes the convenient relationship of Liara and Benezia and the convenient Mako in the Noveria garage pale in comparison.

        But leaving aside general plot issues, I have to confess that I found ME1’s story to be mediocre and boring. I’ve played bad games for the story before. I played through Alpha Protocol 4 times. But when I played ME1, I ended up dropping out for several months somewhere in Feros, and I didn’t get back to it until a month before ME3 came out when I basically forced myself to complete it. I don’t think I would have had to do that if the story had been stronger.

        Maybe you could blame this on me playing ME2 first and having the wrong expectations as a result, but I don’t think that’s the case. I played ME2 with the Genesis DLC, which starts the game with a motion comic summary of the first game’s plot, and on virtually every page I found myself thinking, “this sounds generic and uninspired.” Then when I actually sat down to play ME1, I never saw anything to change my mind.

        Though I consider the Noveria section in particular to be a step above the rest of the game. Sure, it’s a generic Science Gone Wrong monster story, but it has a decent story structure, a moderate amount of branching paths, and a more detailed backstory for the monster than these stories usually have.

        • Christopher says:

          Let’s save that discussion. We’re not halfway through ME1 yet, and the idea was to study what changed, and how, and why. Preferring either one is a matter of taste.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          I think the plot itself is pretty basic. Its the well conceived setting it takes place in that enthralls ME1 grognards. If you played ME2 first, you might have encountered that stuff first there (like I did).

        • I consider ME1 to be kind of blah and it was the only game in the series I played. I pretty much only played it because I was waiting for Dragon Age: Origins to come out–I almost skipped it because I thought Shepard was fixed as a male character.

          Frankly, I only think ME was popular because aside from Star Wars science-fiction RPG’s are basically nonexistent.

          • Mike S. says:

            I’m the opposite. Dragon Age and (for a while) SWTOR are my methadone for when I can’t get Mass Effect, but that’s the world and the characters that I’m fascinated by. Over and above the ending to ME3 itself, what was most frustrating is that they cut off a dozen different promising story hooks (either by preemptively ending them, as with the krogan or the quarian/geth problem, or by making them irrelevant like volus and elcor resentments of their second tier status or human wildcat colonists getting themselves in over their heads on the frontier). And destroyed their ability to tell stories of the future of Citadel space without, as far as I can tell, quite realizing that’s what they were doing.

            I also vastly prefer the combat style of the Mass Effect games– particularly, if heretically, the latter two– to Dragon Age. (Which is odd, since I’ve never been able to develop any interest in the non-RPG shooters it’s reportedly imitating.)

            (If Andromeda doesn’t manage to resurrect the old magic, I’m really not sure where I’m going to go for my next fix. :-) )

            • Daimbert says:

              I also vastly prefer the combat style of the Mass Effect games– particularly, if heretically, the latter two– to Dragon Age. (Which is odd, since I’ve never been able to develop any interest in the non-RPG shooters it’s reportedly imitating.)

              For me, I went from finishing ME2 to finishing DA:O (I had started both at various times), and I noticed that the focus on cover made the combats in ME2 less chaotic, and so easier to manage, and so also less likely to get me hurt or killed. I never thought I’d MISS the combat in ME2, but comparing it to DA:O really did.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Generally when people talk about how it was the best game, I find they either do so while staring dreamingly through rose-coloured glasses. Or they like the idea of the game, more then the actual game itself.

        Maybe elsewhere on the web,but not here.Practically everyone here who thinks 1 is the best in the series,from Shamus down,recognizes the plethora of faults in it.We overlook them,however,because the positives way outweigh the negatives,which is not the case with 2,and definitely not with 3.We recognize the things that 2 fixed,and that its a good game,just not a good mass effect game.

        For example a lot of people really like the idea of exploring alien worlds and missed it in ME2 and ME3. Which ignores how utterly terrible what was supposed to pass as “exploration” was in ME1. The Mako had dreadful controls and it’s bounciness meant that often you had no control at all. And the actual planets were boring, monotonous places that had nothing interesting to find or to look at besides the skybox.

        That is true for most of them,yes.However,the fights against the big stuff(thresher maws and geth colossi)are fun.Planets with flora and fauna are also fun.Hazard planets are also fun.Plus the descriptions of planets themselves were nice and detailed.

        Likewise a lot of people complained that ME2 and 3 had less “RPG elements” then ME1. Sure, ME1 had bigger talent trees. But that ignores how shitty designed they were. You put points in a talent and you got a bonus of a whopping +0,7% to duration.

        Yay? In ME2 and ME3 each talent point you spend had a noticable effect.
        And sure, ME1 technically had more guns to choose from. But all of them behaved and looked the exact same and there was never a reason to not use the highest tier ones (Spectre Master Gear). In ME2 the weapons looked and behaved noticably different. And once ME3 choosing your weapon loadout actually became somewhat of a tactical choice.

        You disregard the flip side of that,where mods in 1 were changing how weapons behave significantly(a fully automatic sniper rifle?Why not.A single shot pistol that acts as a shotgun?If you wish you can make it),while in 2 they were just giving you some small percentage to your damage and ammo size.So instead of interesting equipment and bland skills,we got interesting skill and bland equipment.Which was amusingly enhanced with bullet mods becoming a skill instead of a weapon mod.

        Honestly the only thing I’d say ME1 was the best at was having the plot with the least amount of problems.

        And the best grenades.And overheating system.And the best codex.And the most interesting villain.And the best reason for why these people are hanging around your ship.And no FKL.

        • Raygereio says:

          I’m going to ignore most your post (because we both know that will just end in “You’re wrong. Nuhuh, you’re wrong” by the second reply round), let’s just agree to disagree and move on.

          But I do want to reply to this bit:

          And the best grenades

          I’m honestly baffled by that one. It’s like someone saying the Mako had competent physics.
          I’ve always found the grenades in ME1 to be aweful. They were annoying to aim. The explosion got blocked by level geometry half the time and didn’t hit anything. And in the time it takes for me to aim a grenades, have fly towards an enemy and explode it, I can do more damage by just shooting.
          The only possible use I can think for them is slapping the +force mod on them and knocking groups of weak melee enemies of their feet. Though any biotic can proform that task better.

          To be fair: I’ve never actually used grenades in ME3, so I don’t know if ME3 somehow managed to make grenades even worse.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            let’s just agree to disagree and move on.

            I vehemently disagree with that!

            I’m honestly baffled by that one. It’s like someone saying the Mako had competent physics.
            I’ve always found the grenades in ME1 to be aweful.

            Heres the problem with both of those:They are frustratingly difficult to master.Once you do,you can really appreciate the them,but chances are you wont do that because they are
            1)too wonky when you first encounter them
            2)the places you get to practice them are not well suited for practice
            3)you are offered much easier tools that are only ineffective once you master the grenades/mako.

            So yeah,a bunch of problems with both.As for the grenades in me2,they are just another cooldown ability with crappy aiming.Dont know about 3,but they are copied from 2s expansion with a few tweaks,so just as crappy I guess.

          • INH5 says:

            ME3’s grenades are basically just powers with an ammo counter instead of a cooldown timer. In single player I found them little different from cooldown powers and in multiplayer I found them at times annoying to use because it’s hard to tell whether one of the ammo boxes has grenades until you run up to it and find that someone else with grenade powers has already taken all of them. It seems like an idea that needs a bit more work to get right. Hopefully the ME: Andromeda team will carefully consider how to balance their effectiveness vs. the ease of refill.

            Though one thing about grenade powers is that because they don’t have cooldowns they aren’t effected by weapon weight, making it possible to build characters that don’t care much about weapon weight and so can equip the heaviest weapons and mods available. If the multiplayer is anything to go by, I won’t be surprised if ME: Andromeda handles special ammo types more like ME1 does and uses grenade powers instead of ammo powers as the Soldier’s shtick.

            But regardless, I’d say that ME3’s grenades are clearly superior to ME1’s grenades because at least the former are consistently useful.

          • Mike S. says:

            I know that in ME1 I could reliably blow myself and my squad up accidentally with them.

            (Especially when doing a new playthrough right after playing ME2 or 3, since the R key is the constantly-used reload key in both sequels, and the key for both throwing and detonating grenades in the first game.)

            I also killed a whole bunch of people on Feros before I realized you had to manually equip the grenades with the nonlethal knockout stuff Juliana Baynham gives you.

            (And let’s lightly gloss over the fact that Juliana went from claiming no knowledge of the Thorian to whipping up something she’s confident will subdue its victims in less time than it’s taking me to write this post.)

          • SlothfulCobra says:

            I only ever used them on accident because they’re on the reload button.

      • Slothfulcobra says:

        I feel like all the ways in which the later games scaled back from ME1 made them leaner and more efficient. ME1 has all these sprawling areas you have to slog through to get anywhere(partially because they want to set up firefights in said areas later), but ME2 has everything much more compact, with the shooting areas cordoned off from the rest of the game. Skill trees have far less nonsense to wade through. Enemies actually start to use cover instead of just all rushing you at once. No worthless time sink inventory system where you wade through all kinds of junk to get anything useful.

        And to top it all off, they take away the weapons that your character isn’t allowed to use, so you can scroll through weapons faster. Why did they think that everybody would like using a sniper rifle even if you have no training and literally can’t aim it?

      • Dreadjaws says:

        I’m not sure if it was you the one who claimed such a thing in a previous article, but it seems you’re certainly look at the games in terms of accessibility when trying to figure out which one is the best.

        Sure, if we’re going by that, ME2 and 3 surpass the first one. Same in other areas such as graphics or animation. But there’s more to a game than that. If you take into account the rest of the things that comprise a game, ME1 is clearly the superior one, at least for the genre it’s supposed to belong. I’d argue ME2 is the better action game, but ME1 is a much better RPG.

        • Raygereio says:

          No I must definitely wasn’t the one who did that because “accessibility” is a rather silly means determining the best game, I think.
          I take a step back and put aside my fanboyism and see which one I think is the best designed, has the best gameplay (is the most fun to play), has the best storytelling, etc.

          I’d argue ME2 is the better action game, but ME1 is a much better RPG.

          I’d disagree. I mean, when is a game a RPG?
          When it has character building elements? Well, like I said in the post you replied to: ME1’s character building system was bloated mess. ME2 and ME3’s were far better designed.
          When the focus lies heavily towards storytelling? Yeah, ME2 and ME3 have better gameplay and a common sentiment is “Gee, it’s way more fun to shoot stuff in these games then it was in ME1”. But that doesn’t make them “action games”. All three games try their damnedest to tell a story. You can bicker of which game does the best job at it, but that doesn’t matter here. Just because you think one has a better story then the other, doesn’t mean the otherh as no story.
          I could go one, but you get the idea.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            I mean, when is a game a RPG?

            Its not just one element.Its the combination of character interaction,character building,the world,….Basically,you can sum it up as immersion.Sure,the shooty bits were better in 2 and 3,but actual sense of you being an actual person inside an actual universe instead of being a gun with legs teleported between corridors was much better in 1.

      • Daimbert says:

        It’s really not.
        Generally when people talk about how it was the best game, I find they either do so while staring dreamingly through rose-coloured glasses. Or they like the idea of the game, more then the actual game itself.

        I can definitely say that it’s not that for me. My path was this: A friend raved about the series, and convinced me to try it on the PC. I couldn’t get ME1 at the time, so got ME2 … and might have gotten past the first mission before quitting. But my friend said that ME1 was better anyway, so eventually when the complete series came out on the PS3, I bought it, and played the first one. Which, despite some annoyances, I loved. THEN I started playing ME2 again, and the shift was so strong that I ended up feeling disappointed and disillusioned with ME2, although eventually I played it again and finished it. I’m now in the process of finishing ME3.

        So, let’s look at some of your comments:

        For example a lot of people really like the idea of exploring alien worlds and missed it in ME2 and ME3. Which ignores how utterly terrible what was supposed to pass as “exploration” was in ME1. The Mako had dreadful controls and it’s bounciness meant that often you had no control at all. And the actual planets were boring, monotonous places that had nothing interesting to find or to look at besides the skybox.

        I HATED the Mako in ME1. I kept getting lost, was a terrible gunner, and it bounced around WAY too much for my liking. But I never realized how good or at least how much potential ACTUALLY EXPLORING PLANETS actually had until I lost it in ME2. At least it felt like you were exploring, and even though it often took a LONG time to find things at least it didn’t feel like busywork. And it wasn’t limited by the stupid fuel system which made exploration COST you. Oh, and at least in general exploration wasn’t needed to get you things to make the game actually work for you. I explored every single system and all the planets in ME1. By the end of ME2, I just couldn’t bear doing it anymore, and so did enough to get what I needed. In ME3, I’ll likely get all the War Assets I can from the planets, but it’s such a staggeringly stupid process limited by Reaper activity that I resorted to a FAQ to do it (if you don’t remember where you’ve searched before you get the activity reset, you can end up scanning the same areas, triggering Reapers again, and having to come back. This is insanely stupid and annoying).

        Likewise a lot of people complained that ME2 and 3 had less “RPG elements” then ME1. Sure, ME1 had bigger talent trees. But that ignores how shitty designed they were. You put points in a talent and you got a bonus of a whopping +0,7% to duration.

        What annoyed me the most about the talent trees in ME2 was that most of the “soft” skills went away. I liked having the ability to build a character with Charm, or the ability to Intimidate, or other soft skills, which were mostly missing in ME2. THAT’S what people mean, I think, by less RPG elements, and so your complaint about ME1 is just another example of what they hated. Sure, adding a point to a power is much more effective in the later games … but that’s because advancement is all ABOUT increasing your powers, and nothing else.

        Other things that bugged me about ME2 were:

        – The “story” moved from an overarching world-based thing to, essentially, an excuse to go recruit and interact with admittedly interesting characters. For the most part, the game to me seemed like the plot gave you an excuse to go recruit people, and then each act had a big mission that had no other purpose to give you new people to recruit. All of the interesting stories, plotlines, and missions were either recruitment missions or loyalty missions, or ended up recruiting someone anyway (Legion). It’s all character, little plot. ME3 is better at this, but again the most interesting things in ME3 are the resolutions of the character arcs, which are great … but the overall story is lackluster. Even Kai Leng’s appearance, at least so far, is mostly to give you a resolution for a number of character arcs (which might be why, so far, I don’t hate him, just find him annoying and unimportant).

        – The clips changed how you actually fight. I loved, loved, loved the heat sink approach, because I’m not particularly good in combat and so it let me miss without it being too much of a problem, as long as I watched my heat so I wasn’t left completely out. In ME2, I had to watch ammo, and so couldn’t spray without worrying if I’d run out (in ME3, I’m in narrative difficulty and so it usually isn’t a problem). Also, it seemed to me that some weapons had less ammo and so I had to conserve it more. For example, in ME1 I mostly used the pistol. In ME2, I at least had the impression that it had too little ammo for my skill level, so I ended up switching to the submachine gun, which at least FELT like it had more and so it was less of a problem. In ME3, it’s the assault rifle. Yes, I’ve used a different primary weapon in all three games [grin]. But making the game ammo-dependent ruined a good mechanism in favour of a standard, default mechanism that was just really annoying.

        And there are probably others … but these are the big ones. So no, it’s not “rose-coloured glasses” here; I know exactly why I like ME1 so much better than ME2.

        • Raygereio says:

          You do realize that you’re proving my point here?
          You hated how the exploration aspect was implemented in ME1. But you liked the idea of it. And given enough time once the memory of playing ME1 has faded and you’ve forgotten how terrible the mako was, all you’ll remember is that you liked the idea of exploring planets.

          What you called soft skills were also pretty bad from a design point of view. They didn’t contribute to build variety given that they were practically mandatory. You had to have someone in your squad with third level electronics & decryption, or you’d be gimping yourself for XP & money.
          I’m also have a strong dislike of speech skills such as ME1’s charm & intimidate. How you talk should be a roleplaying choice, not a mechanical one.

          As for you being not good at shooter gameplay. ME1 was really easy and therefore could be considered more accessible. But it was problematic in that frankly boring. Fights quickly boiled down to you holding down the fire button mindlessly. ME2 was harder in that you had a resource to manage, but it meant that you had to think about what you were doing and put in effort.
          That said: Bioware definitely was to stingy with ammo in ME2’s early game. At some point in development they had a hybrid system where if your heatsink was full you could either pop in another one and continue firing (ME2’s system). Or wait until it cooled down (ME1’s system).
          I found this to be a neat system, but sadly it didn’t test well with focus groups. Apparently the idiots they grabbed for the tests found it to be confusing, so they went with a standard ammo system. I think in some areas Bioware didn’t rebalance the available ammo properly after that design change.
          Luckily you can enable that hybrid system in ME2. If you ever want to replay ME2 with that (and you’re on the PC), let me know and I’ll post some instruction for you.
          Also you know you always turn down the difficulty, right? ME3 even has a narrative mode where combat is really easy specifically for people like you who are not good and shooter gameplay.

          • Daimbert says:

            You hated how the exploration aspect was implemented in ME1. But you liked the idea of it. And given enough time once the memory of playing ME1 has faded and you’ve forgotten how terrible the mako was, all you’ll remember is that you liked the idea of exploring planets.

            I finished Mass Effect in 2013 and haven’t played it since. I clearly haven’t forgotten how much I hated the Mako, so I don’t think your point will hold here. Also, you’re ignoring that I’m describing my feelings as I moved DIRECTLY from ME1 to ME2. Despite in all cases being fully cognisant of how much I hated the Mako, I still cried out to the ether “Why couldn’t you have given me that instead of the garbage you DID give me?”. The ME2 “exploration” is not only a massively annoying joke, it’s also more important and required than it was in ME1. So, ME1’s was more entertaining AND if you really hated it it was easier for you to ignore it and not scour the entire galaxy for minerals. There’s just no way to argue that ME1’s exploration wasn’t significantly better than ME2’s. It may have needed improvement, but it’s obvious that ME2 killed the patient in order to try to save it.

            What you called soft skills were also pretty bad from a design point of view. They didn’t contribute to build variety given that they were practically mandatory. You had to have someone in your squad with third level electronics & decryption, or you’d be gimping yourself for XP & money.

            My build was a lot more varied in ME1 than it was in ME2, since I mostly took everything I could because there was so little to choose from. And taking along a party member who has skills you don’t or focuses on that — I’m guessing Tali would work — is indeed an RPG element that gets ripped out if you remove the skill. I’m not going to say that ME1 did it perfectly, but for whatever reason that didn’t bother me at all. I got plenty of money and XP to get through the game without feeling too bad about it. If they did make it so that the main character had to take the same skills, then that would be bad … but I didn’t notice that. And if it was just the case that you had to build at least ONE party member with it … well, that’s an RPG. I don’t see that as a problem.

            As for you being not good at shooter gameplay. ME1 was really easy and therefore could be considered more accessible. But it was problematic in that frankly boring. Fights quickly boiled down to you holding down the fire button mindlessly. ME2 was harder in that you had a resource to manage, but it meant that you had to think about what you were doing and put in effort.

            Actually, interestingly, just holding down the fire button was what I COULDN’T do in ME1 that made me love the heat sink option. I could, indeed, fire off a lot of shots without having to “make every shot count”, which meant that I could miss … but the cost of that was that I couldn’t just “spray” shoot because then the gun would overheat and I’d have to wait to fire again, and in a lot of cases when I did just that I ended up not being able to shoot when enemies were getting in close and hurting me. So I learned to not shoot too much at once, but also didn’t have to worry about missing or even about not using the ideal weapon because it would just take longer; I wouldn’t leave myself helpless because I ran out of ammo.

            Essentially, making ammo a resource simply means that you have to be more effective and efficient with it, but to my mind while it stops the “Wildly spray and hope you hit something” behaviour, it didn’t do that any better than the heat sink method did AND made things harder for people whose aim wasn’t all that great, because in the heat sink model missing isn’t an issue (but wildly spraying is) while in the ammo model missing is as much an issue as wildly spraying is. Or, perhaps, think of it this way: if my skill is poor with the heat sink method, all it means is that it will take longer for me to get the hits in, but I can never be left in the situation where because I missed so many times early in the mission I have to make every shot count, and since I can’t I have to restart.

            At some point in development they had a hybrid system where if your heatsink was full you could either pop in another one and continue firing (ME2’s system). Or wait until it cooled down (ME1’s system).
            I found this to be a neat system, but sadly it didn’t test well with focus groups. Apparently the idiots they grabbed for the tests found it to be confusing, so they went with a standard ammo system. I think in some areas Bioware didn’t rebalance the available ammo properly after that design change.

            I can see how that might have been a neat system, but I can see one issue with it when compared with reloading: reloading is an automatic response and they flag it on-screen when you get close. If you build in those reflexes, then you might as well just have ammo, but if you don’t then you have to stop and think about how much ammo you have left and where things are and if it’s worth waiting vs using that limited ammo when you don’t know how much ammo you’ll find later and … well, at the end of the day, it’s probably not a good idea to force players to have to put that much thought into that simple an action. It’d work for me because I’d never reload, and it’d probably work for players good at shooters who’d almost always reload, but players in-between would probably have to think about it too much, or end up in the situation where they HAD to wait for the cooldown even though they hated that and where in the situation they were in they really would have rathered reload.

            Also you know you always turn down the difficulty, right? ME3 even has a narrative mode where combat is really easy specifically for people like you who are not good and shooter gameplay.

            Which is EXACTLY why I said that in ME3 I was in narrative mode and so didn’t have any issues with running out of ammo (er, mostly. A couple of the sieges were annoying). So, yes, I know you can turn down the difficulty [grin]. I can’t remember what the levels were in ME1, but in general with almost any game and especially with any RPG, I always play on the easiest difficulty level. I’m looking for an enjoyable experience, not a challenge [grin].

          • INH5 says:

            That said: Bioware definitely was to stingy with ammo in ME2’s early game. At some point in development they had a hybrid system where if your heatsink was full you could either pop in another one and continue firing (ME2’s system). Or wait until it cooled down (ME1’s system).
            I found this to be a neat system, but sadly it didn’t test well with focus groups. Apparently the idiots they grabbed for the tests found it to be confusing, so they went with a standard ammo system. I think in some areas Bioware didn’t rebalance the available ammo properly after that design change.
            Luckily you can enable that hybrid system in ME2.

            I’ve played pretty extensively with that hybrid system re-enabled in ME2, and I didn’t like it very much. I found that if you were in the middle of a fight, reloading was nearly always better than waiting for the gun to cool down, and if you ran out of spare clips it was nearly always better to switch to a different weapon that still has spare clips. So the whole system felt redundant to me.

            You might argue that the system could have worked if they had better balanced the advantages of reloading or waiting to cool the gun down, but I think there’s a fundamental problem with this idea. Both of the mechanics have the exact same function: limiting how many times the player can shoot. No matter how the designer balances them, one of the systems is nearly always going to offer a more optimal DPS over time than the other, and once the player figures out which one is more optimal, the player has no reason to ever use the other one. I think it’s telling that while ME3 has introduced several weapons with ME1-style overheating mechanics in the multiplayer and in singleplayer DLC, it has yet to introduce any weapons with a hybrid system like this.

            On that note, having played ME3 multiplayer with both overheating and ammo weapons, I find that an additional disadvantage of the overheating system is that it requires the player to take more of their attention away from the fight. With an ammo mechanic, you only need to check the ammo counter occasionally to keep an idea of how low you’re getting. If you have an overheating weapon, you have to constantly glance at the counter every time you fire it to make sure that you don’t hit the limit. Of course, in ME3 multiplayer this is balanced by the advantage of not needing to regularly run to ammo boxes for a refill.

            • guy says:

              I’d personally actually not mind if the clipless firing mode was strictly worse and purely for when you ran out of ammo on all your guns that were worth using. That’s a problem I actually had sometimes in ME2, because creatures don’t drop clips so you can run out in a lengthy monster fight.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            You had to have someone in your squad with third level electronics & decryption, or you’d be gimping yourself for XP & money.

            Not really.I mean yeah,you will lose access to some xp and money,but you wont need either,because theres plenty of both to be had by the end of the game.Its the same way how miranda is the essential party member in 2 because of her uber bonus to your whole squad.

  24. Artur CalDazar says:

    I don’t know why the tech stuff is so jarring. The series does have a theme of “This technology is really fantastic in every way, just don’t think about where it came from” right down to the mass relays. The codex entry for Medigel states that it should be illegal as it violated several laws in its discovery, but its just so incredibly useful the council looks the other way.

  25. wswordsmen says:

    First the Mako isn’t a tank it is an APC.

    Second you seem to forget that Noveria is the planet corporations go to for the research they aren’t allowed to do in the rest of Citadel Space. Of course it is going to be terrible, they went were the rule of law doesn’t apply because they knew that already.

    • Shamus says:

      “First the Mako isn’t a tank it is an APC.”

      An APC with a tank turret on top. What’s your point?

      “Second you seem to forget that…”

      You seem to forget that I very carefully said it wasn’t bad or wrong or a plot hole. I was talking about “why did the authors put these two different flavors of sci-fi in the same story?”, because I found the juxtaposition interesting. Answering the question using in-world reasoning doesn’t make any sense.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        An APC with a tank turret on top.

        Its not the turret(or the armor,or the tracks)that differentiates the two,but their use.Tanks are built for combat first.APCs are built for rapid and safe crew transport.Mako is built to quickly and safely transport the crew from orbit to the surface(and drive around it),therefore its an apc.

        • Grescheks says:

          It’s also not the fact of whether or not it’s an APC or a tank that’s bothering Shamus. It’s the fact that there is a large military vehicle with a functional and loaded weapon attached that either magically teleported from your ship into a garage, or is there for civilian use, that is the problem. Neither option really makes sense in this otherwise detail-oriented game.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Its neither.Its for the use of the greedy corrupt corporation that owns that hangar(or was it the government of noveria?).

            Oh,and there already is a real world example of civilians getting to use military equipment for fun.Granted,those dont have armed guns,but still they are armored amphibian vehicles you can ride in,through a densely populated city.

            • Shamus says:

              Oh, so the presence of that APC in St. Petersburg means that all writers can just populate their gameworlds with TANKS that are free for the taking to any members of the public? They don’t even need a single surprised line of dialog that this is an unusual set of circumstances, a lucky break, a hilarious corporate oversight, or whatever? Forevermore, tanks are free to all, in all settings because it happened that one time in the real world?

              Call it an APC if you want. Call it a GUN TAXI if you want. I don’t care. It’s still sloppy and silly and my point still stands and haranguing me about the nomenclature of fictional vehicles doesn’t change that.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Free for the taking?Umm,you have to go to the very top of the government just to gain access to the garage,and you think anyone can get it?No,your point does not stand because it is not a vehicle available for free to the public.Its in the possession of whoever owns the garage(cant remember if its the government of noveria,or the corporation that operates in the lab).You are equating someone being given access to a bus by the owner with “anyone from the street can come in and take it because it doesnt have a key for ignition”.

                • Shamus says:

                  You’re still ignoring the fact that NOT ONE PERSON COMMENTS ON THIS. You can write all the headcannon fanfiction you want, but from what we see in the game we can’t even tell if this is the Mako from the Normandy or one for “whoever has access to the garage”. It’s odd. It’s never mentioned. It sticks out. It bugged me and I said so, and your whining about trivialities over such a small point is an irritating waste of my time.

                  Deal with it or fuck off.

                  • guy says:

                    It’s definitely a Mako garage. There’s at least one more in there that you can get into to use as a fixed turret during the fight.

                    • Raygereio says:

                      @guy: The vehicle you’re referring to isn’t a mako. That’s a Grizzly.

                      @Shamus: I’m curious. On Feros a mako also showed up for no reason other that the devs wanted there to be a vehicle section. Why didn’t that one bug you?

                    • Shamus says:

                      It bothered me a little, but this one seemed more slightly more jarring. Since there wasn’t a locked door between the Normandy and the Feros garage, it was possible that the Normandy dropped it off while Shepard was fooling around Zhu’s hope.

                      Now that I think of it, another approach might be to just throw a different texture on the alt Makos. Maybe a different paint job, or a logo, or some wear and tear. Just something to demonstrate that “Yes, this vehicle belongs here and no, it’s not the one you brought with you.” Would still make the one on Noveria seem a little weird / convenient, but not quite as confusing.

                    • Benjamin Hilton says:

                      What makes this odd regardless is that (from what I remember) the Mako is supposed to be some fancy new alliance experimental thing. And that either your’s is the only one, or that it certainly wouldn’t be found outside select alliance units. This led me to believe that it was always the same one you were driving which, here, makes no sense. And yes I know that it’s a big rich evil corporation place and sure they could’ve gotten their hands on one. Still if that is what they were going for than they should have said so instead of leaving it up to head cannon.

                  • Shamus says:

                    I apologize for losing my temper. Sometimes this job gets to me.

                • Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Even if it is an APC and even if it makes sense for them to both have APCs (which I only accept for the sake of making this point) its still weird and overly convenient that a private corporation would have a ground transport thats identical to the one put in the new state-of-the-art, first-of-its-kind Alliance-Turian ship that tons and tons of money was spent on.

                  You MIGHT handwave it as them grabbing a random cookie cutter APC to throw in there if the Normandy was still a prototype that they rushed into service in an emergency, but this was the ship’s inaugural run so everything about its design should be intentional and finalized at this point.

                  Having identical vehicles is jarring in its convenience.

                  • guy says:

                    There’s nothing that says an experimental prototype warship must come with an experimental prototype APC. The Mako works and is widely used so there are stocks of spare parts everywhere, marines already know how to drive it, and they can be fairly confident it won’t spontaneously catch fire. A prototype APC would have none of these advantages.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      They could have at least done a pallette swap. The branding would surely be different.

                  • ? says:

                    Normandy was designed for Systems Alliance as a new type of frigate. It was created with operating within Systems Alliance navy in mind. Therefore it uses standard issue armored vehicle of System Alliance navy (if we are nitpicking type of military vehicle Mako is, it’s an Infrantry Fighting Vehicle , not an APC, so everyone is wrong :P). It would be a logistical nightmare to create unique weapon types for every new class of ships. Presumably Noveria Development Company bought the same popular design from it’s manufacturer. Or maybe Mako’s manufacturer is one of the 24 companies that founded Noveria. Either way if it’s good enought for major military power it’s good enough for corporate security and transport. It might be even the case that human design is superior since they developed it very recently using cutting edge technology, while rest of galaxy didn’t have the need to seriously revamp their equipment in hundreds of years. What is weird, as Shamus points out, is that it has exactly the same paint-job as Normandy one. One would expect at very least company logo.

                    • Mike S. says:

                      One would also expect different markings on the doors of the otherwise identical prefab models dropped on every colony world. If we’re not going to be Doylists and chalk it up to limited developer resources and lack of interest in a palette swap, then we have to figure that Citadel civilization is in a phase where nonfunctional decoration is deprecated. (“Who needs logos? That’s what your IFF heads-up is for.”)

                      This may explain why right around Shepard sees what people are wearing on the Citadel, the N7 disappears from her armor for the rest of the game.

                      But fashions change, and clearly there was a big reaction to the Age of Gray: two years later, everyone’s sticking prominent sigils onto their stuff. (Including secret underground terrorist organizations docking their improved knockoff of a cutting-edge military project at the galactic capital, who you might think would want to keep a lower profile.)

        • Mike S. says:

          To be fair, people in the game call it a tank more than once. (Civilians, IIRC, just as most of us don’t recognize the fine distinctions between armed, treaded armored vehicles now.)

          • Zak McKracken says:

            I don’t even know what an APC is

            • guy says:

              Armored Personnel Carrier.

              It is something reasonably bulletproof used to move infantry around, generally with a machinegun for support and sometimes a heavier cannon used to fight other lightly-armored vehicles or infantry behind cover. Generally they’re more lightly armed and armored than tanks, but strictly speaking it’s an APC if it can carry troops.

              • ? says:

                Merkava is undoubtedly a tank and it can carry 6 passengers. Strictly speaking an APC armed with a gun larger than 20 mm caliber is not an APC but Infantry Fighting Vehicle (or Armored Fighting Vehicle). Comparing Mako to modern definitions, Shamus has a point calling it a tank (it has larger and more powerful main gun than M1 Abrams).

                • Mike S. says:

                  Which says something about the durability of all those prefab bases dropped on uncharted worlds, which can’t even be scratched by it.

                  (Since the doors, at least, don’t look vault-thick, clearly they should use that material to armor the Mako instead of the rather flammable material they did use.)

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Man,if mako is made out of flammable stuff,what is hammerhead made of?

                    • Mike S. says:

                      Guncotton wrapped in flash paper, I think.

                      (Cerberus Procurement Officer: “Commander Shepard needs a vehicle for a suicide mission, you say? I have just the thing!”)

              • ehlijen says:

                And given that the Mako seems to be able to carry only three people (which also act as crew, as the thing becomes inert when you get out), I’d call it a tank and not an APC.

                As for why corporations on Noveria have one, I assumed it was because a) the terrain required that kind of vehicle and b) because it was the only vehicle game asset available.

                For example, during the snow catastrophe in northern germany in the late 70s, army tanks and apcs where the only vehicles able to go anywhere. Noveria seems to be that kind of climate all the time, on top of the underdeveloped paths through mountains (as opposed to being the country that invented the autobahn). I can see them wanting military grade terrain capability on all their vehicles (doesn’t explain the guns, though).

                But mostly, it’s b). All Makos you drive have the same alliance markings. The designers tried to keep them generic, but that still left a privately owned tank on a private research/hubris planet in official military colours. Some throwaway line or a least a new texture set would have helped.

            • MichaelGC says:

              It’s a type of GUN TAXI.

  26. Joe Informatico says:

    Two things:

    1) Star Trek is really an outlier among “classic” space opera. Roddenberry and his writers were Kennedy-era progressive optimists who probably had more in common with the New Wave SF authors (e.g., Harlan Ellison and Norman Spinrad, both luminaries of the New Wave, wrote Trek episodes) than the Golden Age SF authors who pioneered the genre. (Which wouldn’t have been called “space opera” at the time, as the term was considered pejorative, a reference to older pulp stories.) Many Golden Age stories aren’t actually all that optimistic or progressive, especially if you’re not a white, male American.

    2) Around the late 70s and early 80s, the combination of the 1970s societal malaise, the early stirrings of cyberpunk, and the popularity of Star Wars led to the rise of the New Space Opera. Writers like M. John Harrison, Stephen Baxter, Peter F. Hamilton, Frederik Pohl, and C.J. Cherryh reconstructed space opera for a new era, later acknowledging the subsequent rise of cyberpunk and the home computer revolution. Even SF films get into this early on–e.g., Weyland-Yutani from the Alien franchise is a textbook evil corporation, even if in the first movie they’re more amoral. Most TV and film space opera made in the early 90s or later reflects this mentality, to a greater or lesser extent. Again, TNG-era Star Trek is really the outlier here.

    • Mike S. says:

      I’d quibble that Heinlein’s juveniles are post-Golden Age (which probably ends somewhere around the dropping of the first A-bomb). But the point still stands. It’s not all happy endings by any means, and even the ones that are are often against a pretty awful backdrop.

      E.g., Doc Smith’s Lensman stories are the standard against which space opera is measured. (Well, that and his Skylark stories.) And they’re a universe of constant war on an unimaginable scale, psychic and physical torture, and uncounted quadrillions living under tyranny for eons.

  27. Jeff R says:

    Picardo was great in his episode of Justified, by the way.

  28. Dreadjaws says:

    “Given the Trek-like tone of the rest of this universe, I find the heavy-handed “evil corporations” angle to be kind of odd. Not bad, mind you. Just unexpected.”

    Really? I don’t. I always figure that the peaceful world presented in places like the Citadel is simply a front for what’s clearly a failed society. You can see hints (some subtle, some in-your-face) all over the place that species relations are not as good as they might seem at first glance (not that the world is presented as an Utopia, but it’s still far worse than it actually looks). You can see that illegal trading happens behind the scenes all the time. You can see that racism and general intolerance run high.

    It really looks like this is a situation from which several powerful people would obviously benefit. I honestly kinda expected a big “Lexcorp” type building to show up in the Citadel at some point.

    About that Mako, though, isn’t it a point of that scenario that it’s really, really hard to get into the garage? I don’t think that thing is up for grabs. Plus, since that’s Saren’s place and he obviously has access to Spectre tech, I figured it was his. That being said, the game never actually addresses that point, so whatevere explanation I give is fanfiction, but I just don’t find it as puzzling as you do.

    • Mike S. says:

      I think “failed society” goes too far. It’s a civilization that’s lasted several thousand years, and it looks pretty functional, modulo the appearance of billion year old genocidal living dreadnoughts. If it has poverty, corruption, and the occasional devastating war, that just puts it in the same boat with every civilization ever.

      One reason I really regret them going with the Reaper War plot is that I was really interested in seeing how the world was going to develop, and the fact that we never will (whatever happens over in Andromeda) strikes me as a real shame.

      • Ringwraith says:

        It’d be far more interesting if the result of the war was it just left places in ruins rather than the complete galaxy-changing endings we got instead.
        Probably because that’s a much more easily ‘relatable’ scenario, we can sort imagine what such devastation might cause, whereas what we got… is just really far out there and detached and thus seems silly, because it’s way beyond any scope we’re used to dealing with, even within the games themselves.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      A lot of what the codex says seems a little utopian. The Asari have a weird anarchic confederation of city-states that by all modern models of government shouldn’t work, but I guess it all works out because of love and friendship or something like that. The Turians have some sort of military society where nearly everyone is a member of the military in some capacity, which adds up to some kind of communistic thing (at least it sounds a lot like a command economy to me). It could just be some kind of exaggeration like you’d expect to see in a textbook that’s decades or centuries out of date.

      There’s also a lot of talk about how the discovery of mass effect technology, element zero, and the relays was such a boon to human society, but it seems particularly odd that you never see any real human politics. It’s all either the alliance military or big massive evil corporations, never any real talk as to how humanity is doing outside of those. It makes you wonder.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Probably because prior to the First Contact War, the Systems Alliance was considered a complete joke by the Earth governments. When the conflict broke out, world leaders bickered over what to do while the Systems Alliance took it upon themselves to mobilise. The fact they dealt a decisive blow back to the turians themselves gave them a lot of respect, and led to much more autonomous incarnation that’s around by the time of the games. As such it’s considered the outward ‘face’ of humanity to the rest of the galaxy.

  29. SlothfulCobra says:

    We see at Noveria that Saren had a lot of weird sketchy investments. Later, the next spectre that shows up is in the pocket of the Shadow Broker. Shepard himself gets by mainly on odd jobs and support from the Alliance military until ME2, when he signs up with a secret terrorist organization. God only knows what Nihlus had funding him.

    I think all of the spectres were corrupt in some sense, just to get money to fund themselves. The Council doesn’t provide any direct support, they’re practically asking for this to happen.

  30. Zak McKracken says:

    I don’t think that for Patrick Stewart, Star Trek was much to escape from since he already had quite the career before it, although mostly on stage, thus out of the view of much of the public — but he was a well-established actor nonetheless. The stuff on IMDB is just the TV and movie parts he played, and even that goes back to the 1960’s.

  31. Zak McKracken says:

    What I find a little crazy about all those evil corporations in ME is not so much that they do shady things (who wouldn’t if they could and make profit from it?) but rather that apparently every singe one of those shady research projects eventually gets out of control and kills most of the people working on the project plus some. Completely ignoring laws and stuff, that sort of failure rate does not make sense for any company — at least some of them should get away with it and make crazy profit from them, so at least it looks plausible that there’s something to gain.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Well, aside from Peak 15, which is implied to be a super secret dark site where particularly shady things are always going on, none of the other labs on Noveria seem to have any problems. At least, none that we know of. And ExoGeni’s experiments were also going pretty well until the geth showed up and wrecked everything.

      Though, it’s kind of hilarious that almost every single instance of a botched experiment throughout the series can be traced back to Cerberus in some way or another.

      • INH5 says:

        One of my favorite quotes from the Citadel DLC:

        Joker: You know, I miss the days where Cerberus was just hilariously incompetent. “Hey commander, this is Cerberus! We were studying some rachni, and they got loose and killed all our guys. Can you take care of that? It’s just one system over from where we hooked this guy up to a bunch of Geth, who then got loose and killed all our guys.”

      • Ringwraith says:

        It is suggested that the galaxy tends to get stagnated when new races haven’t joined for a while, and humans already brought some new ideas to the table (specifically, the concept of carrier ships), so you could argue this wave of ‘new’ ideas, even though they’re morally bankrupt and backfire horribly, is just sort part of that ‘new race, new perspective’ thing.
        Or I could just be making things up about how things accidentally align if you stretch them out way too much.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      You only really hear about the ones that go haywire, because there’s no reason to bring in a soldier to an experiment that hasn’t gone awry.

      There is a lot you hear about with biotic experimentation; Kaiden tells you a lot about it. Technically that stuff Maelon was doing to cure the genophage was going just fine until Shepard came around to ruin everything. Grunt was also the product of a successful experiment, Okeer just forgot to bring a gas mask to counter Jedore. I’m not so sure that Cerberus’s experiments went wrong back in ME1; they seemed like they wanted to kill a bunch of people, and they did.

  32. KadashmanEnlil says:

    Really interesting series of articles, keep up the good work.

    Both ME1 and ME2 (Xbox 360 versions) had been gathering dust here for years; I tried to play them several times, but I couldn’t get through the cliché-ridden setting, the (to me) lacklustre combat and the often claustrophobic, repetitive environments.
    These articles finally pushed me ‘over the brink’, I bought ME on Steam (all hail a fast PC and everything on max at 1440p) and…I made it! Finished ME1, and I agree with many others that the franchise had promise, even if so much of it consists of ‘borrowed’ stuff 1 step removed from various TV series, books and even some other games.

    Most of what annoys me about ME1 are things that have been mentioned many times before, but regarding Noveria:

    Peak 15 is on top / inside a glacier for security reasons. I am not entirely sure, but glaciers aren’t exactly stable I believe. Apart from weather and climate affecting the glacier (melting / precipitation, pieces breaking off etc.) they ‘move’ because of their sheer weight. The good old ‘remote space station / planet or moon with vacuum or highly poisonous / corrosive atmosphere’ would probably be best. But hey, must have a snow planet with a linear vehicle section.

    Regardless of the ‘cold’, Peak-15 appears to be within walking distance (a few minutes’ worth of driving) of the main settlement on the planet, Port Hanshan. And that place very likely has – or is supposed to have – tens if not hundreds of thousands of inhabitants (it does feel like a ‘1 city with spaceport + remote research bases’ kind of planet). Not sure if nukes and neutron bombs going off within walking distance is a very good idea. It also puts the planet’s main population centre uncomfortably close to whatever (if worst comes to worst) might break out of Peak 15.

    (yes I know, it’s just so we can have a snowy linear vehicle section that doesn’t last too long – though it felt too long for me anyway)

    Finally, there are lots of what appear to be freshly ruined vehicles on the road, presumably destroyed by the Geth. One would suppose that whatever security systems and forces that are available would have noticed such minutiae as, say, multiple armoured vehicles being knocked out by Geth weaponry.

    ‘Hey Bob, whatever happened to that armoured column we sent to Peak 15 to deal with those, eh, disturbances?
    ‘Oh, they reported coming under attack by unknown forces, then static and that was it.’
    ‘Bob, do you think we should report this?’
    ‘Nah, it’s Friday and late in the afternoon. It can wait until after the weekend’

    Oh, and I agree Port Hanshan itself was pretty boring. It felt like I was walking in some 1960s vintage concrete, glass and steel university building. 1960s ‘brutalistic’ concrete architecture is a very prominent feature of a lot of BioWare games anyway; they even smuggled it into the Dragon Age fantasy setting (DA2’s Kirkwall in particular). Once you recognise that, it becomes extremely annoying. Unfortunately, they never use any of the more striking brutalistic architecture (maybe a couple of polygons too many?).

    At the end of the day, I had quite a bit of fun with ME1, partly because I liked parts of the game or what it tried to do, partly because some of it was so dumb that it lent itself to snarky commentary on my part. I was glad, however, when I finished the game and there’s not much animo to play it again or play and finish the sequels.

    • INH5 says:

      You could handwave that the relatively short distance between Peak 15 and Port Hanshan is a result of “video game scale,” and the actual in-universe distance between them is much larger. Much like how I’m sure that Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam are further apart from each other in real life than they are in the Fallout New Vegas game world. But you do have a point with everything else.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Video game scale is a weird thing.So you have people and vehicles up to scale(so the former can enter the late),but then everything else is condensed,both spatially and temporally.So you can have dialogues exchanging 10 sentences lasting for in game hours,and be able to walk from one end of new york to the other in 15 minutes.Thinking about it is a recipe for disaster.

    • Otters34 says:

      I love the term ‘brutalistic architecture’. Makes me think of rooms that punch you in the face if you DARE enter them.

  33. OldOak says:

    Coming back at Mako while still on ME1, I’m just curious: of the people that hate Mako, how many used it on PC and how many on consoles?

    I had experienced both platforms (console being PS3 in my case), and just for the record, whoever considered plugging in both joysticks for steering, should be on the top of Hall of Shame list forever (and there might be some worse words I won’t mention in such a public and honorable place).

    As a comparison, the PC handling of Mako is the “real deal” where you can actually look around while driving (e.g. admiring those nice skyboxes).

    • KadashmanEnlil says:

      On PC the Mako felt okay, particularly in low-gravity environments like the Moon.
      On worlds with a decent amount of gravity the thing felt ‘off’, and because its controls are very sensitive it really felt out of place on, say, Noveria or Feros.

      I was reminded of the old Moon Buggy game; and what is right and proper on the Moon isn’t proper while, say, driving on Mars. I would even go so far as saying that they really needed multiple vehicles – a Moon Buggy sort of thing for low-gravity environments, a powerful APC/Tank whatever for Mars-ish / Earth-ish gravity worlds, and probably a flying vehicle as well. That would probably have required quite a few additional development dollars though.

      (though to be honest, Bio never struck me as the most efficient or cost-effective developer, so perhaps another studio could have done more with the same amount of money)

      • OldOak says:

        I wouldn’t say there is a gravity difference to be felt on the maps while driving the Mako. But there is the “sharpness” of the environment that can lead to the frustration in the overall experience.
        While on the Moon the terrain is smooth and you have an almost linear drive to the three bunkers base, on some other maps you really have to move/jump around to find your way to the next place.

        • KadashmanEnlil says:

          The Mako feels exceptionally light – something that only makes some sense in low-gravity environments. It behaves like a self-propelled bouncing bag…with very sensitive controls.

          And yes, it behaves the same on all planets and moons – because they didn’t program the Mako to behave differently according to the nominal gravity.

          • Mike S. says:

            I thought the lightness was explained by the mass effect core. (I’d thought explicitly, though I suppose I might have just inferred it.)

            Granted, if it’s an intentional effect, it should be possible to turn it off (or even adjust the intensity) when it starts interfering with maneuverability rather than helping.

    • Raygereio says:

      I’ve only played the ME games on the PC. The problem with the Mako’s controls is that its physics are awful. The thing bounces all over the place if it just so much as drives over an ant. I can’t say that being able to look around with the mouse helps with that.

    • jd says:

      Played it on 360. I liked the mako stuff, liked it a lot better than the planet scanning in ME2 (talk about boring…) but I do see how it could have used some improvements. Much like the inventory.

      But no, don’t improve or fix these things, just throw them out, that’s so much better… (btw I’m being sarcastic…)

  34. SimeSublime says:

    Shamus, when describing Anoleis in the first additional textbox you proposed the character idea “Guy who is cool to the player but a tyrant to everyone else” – you realise you just summed up the Bloody Baron from the Witcher 3 right?

  35. p bro says:

    You CAN pass Port Hanshan in 5 minutes, you just rat out the Hanar Merchant who tries to get you to smuggle those parts to the Administrator and bam you have your garage pass.

  36. natureguy85 says:

    I’m reading back through the series now that the entire thing is finished. I don’t see that Liara being Benezia’s daughter as that contrived because I assumed that Saren reached out to Benezia, over any other Matriarch or ally, with the intention of using her to get to Liara. I suppose you could say it’s still contrived that such a combination even exists, but this way it isn’t as if Saren just learned of it in a stroke of luck after Benezia joined him.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>